By Kathleen Bianco, J.D.
Jury finds that cancer patient failed to prove by a preponderance of evidence that she suffered from permanent alopecia caused by the chemotherapy drug.
In the first bellwether trial of a multidistrict litigation against drug manufacturers arising from claims that certain chemotherapy drugs can cause patients to loss their hair permanently, a federal jury in Louisiana rejected a cancer patient’s claim that the use of the chemotherapy drug Taxotere® in her treatment for breast cancer had caused her to suffer and to continue suffering from disfiguring permanent alopecia (hair loss). In light of the jury’s finding, the federal district court for the Eastern District of Louisiana entered judgment in favor of the drug manufacturers in the patient’s action asserting various products liability-related claims (In re: Taxotere (Docetaxel) Products Liability Litigation (Earnest v. Sanofi Aventis U.S. LLC) , September 27, 2019, Milazzo, J.).
In 2011, the patient was diagnosed with breast cancer in her left breast. At that time, her physician recommended and prescribed chemotherapy with docetaxel (Taxotere® and/or its generic non-bioequivalents). The patient received her first dose on or around June 22, 2011, and underwent four rounds of chemotherapy ending on August 24, 2011. Following her treatments, the patient filed suit against a number of entities involved in the manufacture of docetaxel, including Sanofi Aventis U.S. LLC and Sanofi US Services, Inc. The complaint alleged liability under the Louisiana Products Liability Act, including claims for design defect, strict products liability, failure to warn, breach of express and implied warranties, fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment, negligent misrepresentation, and strict liability misrepresentation.
The complaint alleged that the drug makers withheld information regarding the risk of permanent alopecia associated with the use of docetaxel from patients and healthcare professionals in the United States and failed to conduct further investigations into the side-effect of disfiguring permanent alopecia. As a result of these acts and/or omissions, the patient contended that the drug makers caused her to suffer serious and permanent injuries; economic and non-economic damages; past, present, and future physical and mental pain, suffering, and discomfort; and past, present, and future loss and impairment of the quality and enjoyment of life.
Jury verdict. Following a trial, the jury issued a verdict finding that the patient had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that she had suffered permanent chemotherapy-induced alopecia caused by Taxotere. Having answered "no" to that pivotal question, there was no need to determine whether the drug companies had provided adequate warnings to the patient or her doctor, and no damages were awarded.
In light of the jury’s determination, the court entered judgment in favor of the manufacturers of the drug, Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC and Sanofi US Services, Inc.
The case is No. 16-17144 (MDL No. 16-2740).
Attorneys: Jere Kyle Bachus (Bachus & Schanker, LLC) for Barbara Earnest. Douglas J. Moore (Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore, LLC) and Harley Ratcliff (Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP) for Sanofi US Services, Inc.
Companies: Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC; Sanofi US Services Inc. f/k/a Sanofi-Aventis U.S. Inc.
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