California Jury Returns Defense Verdict for Novartis

June 26, 2013

After a two-week long trial, a jury in the Eastern District of California returned a verdict in favor of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation in Hill v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. 1:06-cv-00939-JSR-SAB (E.D. Cal. June 26, 2013).  Judge Jed Rakoff (sitting as a visiting judge from the Southern District of New York) had indicated that he would grant Novartis’s motion for a judgment as a matter of law on the issue of proximate causation, but allowed the jury to deliberate and render a verdict.  Plaintiff Chris Hill alleged that she developed osteonecrosis of the jaw as a result of receiving Zometa, prescribed to prevent skeletal-related events such as bone fractures – a common complication of her renal cell carcinoma that had metastasized to her bones.

Novartis argued that plaintiff failed to prove that a different or earlier warning would have altered the behavior of Ms. Hill’s prescribing and treating physicians.  Judge Rakoff agreed, finding that plaintiff had provided an “extraordinarily minute amount of relevant evidence” on the issue of proximate causation and that any decision of the jury would not be based on logic and be “nothing more than a guess.”  Judge Rakoff had already dismissed plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages, stating that there was no evidence “on which a reasonable juror could remotely find the elements of punitive damages.”