Arizona Appeals Court Discredits Learned Intermediary Doctrine In Drug Injury Case

162017_132140396847214_292624_nOn January 29, 2015, the Arizona Court of Appeals Division One (“Court of Appeals”) stated that under Arizona’s system of comparative fault, when the manufacturer of a product furnishes false or misleading information to the consumer, that manufacturer should not be shielded from liability simply because it provided adequate warnings to a third party – whether a consumer was adequately warned should ordinarily be determined by examining the actions of all involved in the chain of distribution.

The Learned Intermediary Doctrine

Under the Learned Intermediary Doctrine, a manufacturer is not liable for failing to warn consumers of a product’s potential risks so long as it provides a proper warning to the specialized class of people who are authorized to sell, install, or provide the product. In the context of a prescription drug, a physician is presumed to act as an intermediary whose services and advice are necessary before a consumer may receive the drug – a prescribing physician’s actions in failing to warn the patient of a drug’s risks would constitute unforeseeable, superseding forces that would break the chain of causation between a drug manufacturer’s distribution of the product and a consumer’s harm. The Court of Appeals has followed the learned intermediary doctrine since 1978.

Arizona’s Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act 

Arizona’s Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act (“UCATA”), which was enacted in 1984, changed Arizona law by allowing a co-defendant in a tort action to seek contribution from other tortfeasors. UCATA was amended in 1987, establishing several-only liability (pure comparative fault), which made each co-defendant in a tort case liable for no more than his or her respective percentage of fault – each defendant in a product liability case is individually responsible for its own contribution to the plaintiff’s injury, independent of the actions of the co-defendants.

The Effect Of UCATA On The Learned Intermediary Doctrine

The ultimate effect of UCATA was to prevent a partially responsible defendant from being held liable for the damages caused by his co-defendant. However, under the learned intermediary doctrine, a prescribing physician may bear all of the responsibility when a consumer is given an inadequate warning about a drug, even when a manufacturer played some role in making that warning insufficient – the learned intermediary doctrine precludes a complete assessment of comparative fault among tortfeasors because it preemptively limits the scope of a manufacturer’s duty.

The Court of Appeals concluded that applying the learned intermediary doctrine in the context of prescription pharmaceuticals conflicts with UCATA (that each defendant in a tort case is liable for his or her own respective share of fault, no more and no less).

The Court of Appeals further noted that modern-day pharmaceutical marketing increasingly makes use of direct consumer advertising to promote prescription drugs – a physician no longer is necessarily the consumer’s sole source of information about the effects, benefits, and risks of the medications he or she takes.

The Court of Appeals held that elimination of the learned intermediary doctrine allows a fair allocation of fault under UCATA, and a consumer who is harmed by false or misleading information from either a manufacturer or the prescribing physician may recover in accordance with each defendant’s percentage of fault – the Court of Appeals held that the learned intermediary doctrine cannot coexist with UCATA.

Source Watts v. Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation, No. 1 CA-CV 13-0358.

If you have been injured due to medical negligence in Arizona, you should promptly find an Arizona medical malpractice lawyer to investigate your Arizona medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in an Arizona medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 at 5:48 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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