E.D. Missouri Grants Novartis Summary Judgment in Products Liability Case

June 19, 2012

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri granted Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation’s Daubert motion regarding plaintiff’s expert witnesses and then granted summary judgment in favor of Novartis in Parmentier (Johnson) v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. 1:12-CV-00045 SNLJ, 2012 WL 2326047 (E.D. Mo. June 19, 2012), a case that had been part of the ongoing Aredia and Zometa multidistrict litigation, In re: Aredia and Zometa Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 3:06-MD- 01760 (TJC) (M.D. Tenn.).

In granting Novartis’s Daubert motion, Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr. found that the expert witnesses plaintiff designated to opine on specific causation, i.e., whether Aredia and/or Zometa caused plaintiff to develop osteonecrosis of the jaw (“ONJ”), did not satisfy Federal Rule of Evidence 702.  Plaintiff designated three witnesses: Dr. Ramin Shabtaie, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has been designated as an expert in several pending Zometa/Aredia cases; and two of plaintiff’s treating physicians.  Judge Limbaugh concluded that plaintiff failed to establish that any of the designated experts were qualified to opine on the etiology of plaintiff’s jaw condition.  As to Dr. Shabtaie, Judge Limbaugh noted that “[d]iagnosing a condition is quite different from determining causation” and that even if Dr. Shabtaie was qualified to testify as to specific causation, his “methodology was flawed.  Dr. Shabtaie did not rule out possible causes of Ms. Johnson’s ONJ because he did not have sufficient information to do so . . . .”  Plaintiff’s treating physicians were excluded on much the same grounds as “[n]either can state to a reasonable degree of medical certainty what caused Ms. Johnson’s ONJ, and neither may provide specific causation testimony to support plaintiff’s claims.”  Id.  Because the plaintiff lacked causation evidence, summary judgment was granted.  In Parmentier, Judith Parmentier, the Personal Representative and sister of decedent Linda Johnson, alleged that Ms. Johnson developed ONJ as a result of her use of Aredia and Zometa, prescribed to treat her metastatic breast cancer.