GSK Can’t Ax Out-Of-Staters From Ill. Paxil Suit, Court Says
Law360, Boston (August 29, 2016, 5:06 PM EDT) — GlaxoSmithKline LLC had enough purposeful contacts with Illinois during clinical trials for the antidepressant Paxil for it to face claims from out-of-state residents that the company failed to warn that the drug could cause serious birth defects, a state appeals court ruled Friday.
The First District Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth Division, ruled that the standard for a showing that a defendant’s conduct was “arising from” its contacts with the state was “lenient and flexible,” giving the state courts jurisdiction over the pharmaceutical giant. The decision in an interlocutory appeal upholds the trial court’s denial of GSK’s dismissal bid.
“In light of the lenient and flexible ‘arising from’ and ‘related to’ standard, plaintiffs meet the low threshold of a prima facie showing that their claims arose from defendant GSK’s Paxil trials in Illinois,” the appeals court said.
In the suit, eight minors from six states — Illinois, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin — said that they suffered catastrophic birth defects because their mothers were taking GSK’s Paxil. The label failed to warn them of serious birth defects that the drug could cause, the plaintiffs said, and that was the result of inadequate clinical trials, 18 to 21 of which occurred in Illinois via 17 Illinois doctors. That meant that the claims arose directly out of or were related to GSK’s purposeful contacts with Illinois, the plaintiffs argued.
GSK argued that Illinois did not have jurisdiction over the out-of-state plaintiffs.
“GSK is disappointed by the court’s decision and is considering its options,” the company said in an emailed statement Tuesday.
Tor Hoerman, whose firm represented the plaintiffs, said in an emailed statement: “This decision is entirely in line with existing precedent of the Illinois Supreme Court and Appellate Court. … Drug makers who conduct inadequate or manipulated clinical trials in Illinois should not be surprised that they can be sued in Illinois for that conduct.”
In trying to have the suit dismissed as to the out-of-state plaintiffs, GSK said that its clinical trials occurred in 44 states and foreign countries, too attenuated for personal jurisdiction in one state where it’s not headquartered. Its alleged acts or omissions in Illinois were not the “but for” cause — in other words, GSK said, the plaintiffs couldn’t show that the harm would not have occurred but for what GSK did in Illinois.
In addition, GSK argued, the plaintiffs weren’t study subjects there, and the out-of-state plaintiffs didn’t take Paxil or suffer injuries in Illinois.
The children and their mothers argued that GSK had meaningful contacts with Illinois through its clinical trials of Paxil, during which they said it failed to track 18 pregnancies, one of which resulted in a heart defect. According to Friday’s decision, GSK employs 16,323 people in the U.S., including 217 who reside in Illinois, and from 2000 to 2006, GSK had between 79 and 121 employees marketing Paxil in Illinois.
They did not have to prove that any act was committed in Illinois, but just make a prima facie showing, the defendants said.
In a ruling Friday, the appeals court sided with the plaintiffs.
“The quality of defendant GSK’s relationship with Illinois can hardly be characterized as random, attenuated or the like; the contacts with Illinois, over the course of two decades, were purposeful and directed,” the appeals court ruled.
The plaintiffs, and the judges, used some of GSK’s own statements to show that the case could continue. In a declaration, GSK said that the principal Paxil investigators had “little or no input into or control over the study design protocol or analysis of the aggregate data collected from all study sites.”
“As plaintiffs argue, the word ‘little’ invites the inference that the physicians had some degree of input into, and control over, the clinical trials, or else the word would have been omitted,” the appeals court said. Absent further guidance in the record, we ‘resolve in favor of the plaintiff any conflicts in the pleadings and affidavits.’”
Judges Robert E. Gordon, Bertina E. Lampkin and Eileen O’Neill Burke sat on the panel for the First District.
GlaxoSmithKline is represented by Dentons.
The plaintiffs are represented by Ken Brennan of TorHoerman Law LLC.
The case is M.M., a minor, et al. v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC et al., case number 1-15-1909, in the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division.
–Editing by Mark Lebetkin.
Update: This story has been updated to include a comment from GSK.