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Third Circuit agrees with Hollingsworth LLP amicus brief in Zoloft case, affirming exclusion of causation expert.

On June 2, 2017, the Third Circuit unanimously affirmed a decision excluding expert causation testimony and granting summary judgment in favor of Pfizer on claims that its anti-depressant drug Zoloft can cause cardiac birth defects if taken during early pregnancy.  In re: Zoloft (Sertraline Hydrocholide) Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 16-2247 (3d Cir. June 2, 2017).  The appellate court agreed with the amicus brief Hollingsworth LLP filed on behalf of the American Tort Reform Association (“ATRA”) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (“PhRMA”) that the testimony offered by plaintiffs’ causation expert (Dr. Nicholas Jewel) failed to meet the strictures of Daubert and Fed. R. Evid. 702.

In concluding that the district court had not abused its discretion in excluding Dr. Jewel, the Third Circuit focused on “the specific techniques by” which he analyzed various studies, holding that these techniques “must themselves be reliable according to the principles articulated in Daubert.”  Id. at 20.  This required Dr. Jewel to explain how he drew his conclusions and how he weighed various criteria relative to one another in reaching his causation opinion.  The court examined a number of his failures, including not analyzing certain data or meaningfully addressing studies that did not support his conclusion, rendering his opinion unreliable.  As the appellate court stressed, “any step that renders the analysis unreliable under the Daubert factors renders the expert’s testimony inadmissible.”  Id. at 28.

ATRA and PhRMA were represented by Firm partners Joe Hollingsworth, Eric Lasker, Kirby Griffis, and Greg Chernack.

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