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Winter v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 9, 2014

Christine WINTER, Individually and as Executor of the Estate of Ruth Baldwin, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
NOVARTIS PHARMACEUTICALS CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant. Christine Winter, Individually and as Executor of the Estate of Ruth Baldwin, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Defendant-Appellant.

Submitted: Sept. 26, 2013.

Page 406

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 407

John J. Vecchione, John J. VecchioneLaw PLLC, argued, Fairfax, VA, Roger G. Brown, Jefferson City, MO, John J. Beins, Beins, Goldberg & Hennessey, LLP, Chevy Chase, MD, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Linda Susan Svitak, Minneapolis, MN, Joseph Michael Price, Minneapolis, MN, Deirdre C. Gallagher, Saint Louis, MO, Katharine Ruth Latimer, Washington, DC and Gregory S. Chernack, argued, Washington, DC, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before LOKEN, COLLOTON, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

BENTON, Circuit Judge.

Ruth Baldwin developed osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) after two of her teeth were extracted. She sued, alleging Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation negligently failed to provide adequate warnings for two drugs she took, Aredia and Zometa. After a jury trial, Baldwin, by her executor, received $225,000 in compensatory damages, plus certain costs. Novartis appeals,

Page 408

arguing the district court: (1) improperly found that inadequate warnings proximately caused Baldwin's injuries; (2) erred in applying Missouri law to the punitive damages claim; (3) abused its discretion in admitting hearsay evidence; and (4) abused its discretion in awarding the costs for depositions conducted as part of multi-district litigation. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1291, this court affirms in part, vacates in part, and remands.

I.

Novartis seeks judgment as a matter of law, arguing Baldwin did not establish that her injuries were proximately caused by inadequate warnings. This court reviews de novo a district court's grant or denial of a motion for judgment as a matter of law. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Scott, 486 F.3d 418, 422 (8th Cir.2007). This court reviews the evidence most favorably to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable inferences and resolving all factual disputes in its favor. Id.

Under Missouri law, " it is incumbent upon the manufacturer to bring the warning home to the doctor." Krug v. Sterling Drug, Inc., 416 S.W.2d 143, 146 (Mo.1967) (internal quotations omitted). To establish proximate causation in a failure-to-warn claim, a plaintiff " must show that a warning would have altered the behavior of the individuals involved in the accident." Moore v. Ford Motor Co., 332 S.W.3d 749, 761-63 (Mo. banc 2011) (internal quotations omitted). Missouri presumes that a warning, if given, will be heeded. Id. Absolute certainty is not required to prove a causal connection between a defendant's acts or omissions and the plaintiff's injuries. Howard v. Missouri Bone & Joint Ctr., Inc., 615 F.3d 991, 996 (8th Cir.2010). A submissible case requires substantial evidence that the injury is a natural and probable consequence of the defendant's behavior. Id. Absent compelling evidence that causation is wanting, causation is for the jury. Id.

When Dr. James N. Hueser first prescribed Aredia for Baldwin in July 2003 (and Zometa in September 2003), the risk of ONJ was not mentioned in the package inserts. The company modified the inserts in September 2003, when ONJ was mentioned only in the " ...


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