Law360, New York (November 22, 2016, 3:11 PM EST) — An Illinois federal judge on Monday canceled a pretrial hearing scheduled to vet an expert witness for the widow of a former Reed Smith LLP partner who killed himself allegedly as a result of taking GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s antidepressant drug, finding that the expert’s past issues had already been settled.
Dr. David Healy, who’s set to testify on behalf of widow Wendy Dolin when her trial against GSK begins in January, was scheduled first to take part in a pretrial hearing regarding an investigation into a past patient incident by the General Medical Council, the governing board of medicine in the United Kingdom where his practice is located.
However, that investigation has since closed with no finding of wrongdoing, and the Illinois federal court’s in camera review of documents related to the council’s inquiry have turned up nothing either, therefore a hearing to vet Dr. Healy is no longer warranted, U.S. District Judge William T. Hart decided.
“As stated by this court before the GMC investigation was closed ‘investigations, without finding of culpability, are typically not relevant.’ Moreover, there is nothing in the in camera documents to warrant a hearing or disclosure of the documents. Accordingly, no pretrial hearing of Dr. Healy’s testimony will be held,” Judge Hart wrote.
The judge indicated that the court would hang onto the in camera documents until the conclusion of the trial, which is set to begin Jan. 17.
“This case is about Paxil-induced self-harm, not a medical board investigation where Dr. Healy was cleared of any wrongdoing and had nothing to do with Paxil,” Robert Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman PC, an attorney for Dolin, told Law360. “GSK wants to distract the jury with any and everything that does not center on GSK’s conduct. The court, thankfully, saw through it.”
A representative for GSK declined to comment.
Dolin had asked Senior U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel in August to cancel the December hearing over Healy after the General Medical Council cleared him in an investigation following the suicide of one of his patients.
Judge Zagel had requested the hearing to determine whether GSK could ask Healy about the council’s investigation in front of the jury during the upcoming trial. But Dolin had argued that GSK’s investigation-based attacks on Healy were no longer relevant to the case.
Dolin sued GSK and Mylan Inc. in 2012, two years after her husband, Stewart, threw himself in front of a train. He began taking Mylan’s generic form of GSK’s antidepressant Paxil just a few days before his death.
Wendy Dolin claims GSK covered up an increased risk of suicide associated with Paxil by manipulating data used in a study that was submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She also wants GSK held liable for failing to include a warning on its packaging about the risk.
For more than a year now, the parties have battled over Healy, a British psychiatrist who will testify for the widow about his research into the causal relationship between Paxil and adult suicide. While under investigation by the council, Healy wrote on his blog that he was likely being targeted by major drug manufacturers like GSK because of his testimony in various cases against the companies.
After Judge Zagel ensured the case would go to trial by declining to rule on GSK’s summary judgment bids earlier this year, GSK pressed him to force Healy to reveal documents related to the council’s investigation, arguing they were relevant to Healy’s credibility and potential bias against the drugmaker. Dolin countered, saying the public filing of the documents could cost Healy his job.
Judge Zagel denied GSK’s efforts to get the documents, which were submitted to the court for in camera review, but said he wanted to hold a special hearing to determine whether the U.K. investigation is relevant to the Dolin case.
Dolin is represented by R. Brent Wisner, Michael L. Baum, Bijan Esfandiari and Frances M. Phares of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman PC, and David Rapoport, Joshua L. Weisberg and Melanie VanOverloop of Rapoport Law Offices PC.
GSK is represented by Alan S. Gilbert and Anders Wick of Dentons LLP, Chilton D. Varner, Andrew Bayman, Todd Davis and Heather Howard of King & Spalding LLP, and Robert Glanville, Thomas Wiswall, Tamar Halpern and Eva Canaan of Phillips Lytle LLP.
The case is Dolin v. Smithkline Beecham Corp. et al., case number 1:12-cv-06403, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
— Additional reporting by Emily Field, Kat Greene and Diana Novak Jones. Editing by Ben Guilfoy.