United States District Court, District of Columbia
January 19, 2001
LAKESHIA DYSON, PERSONALLY AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE ESTATE OF RICO MONROE, JR., PLAINTIFF
PHARMACIA & UPJOHN, INC., DEFENDANT
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lamberth, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Now before the Court is a motion by the plaintiff to alter or amend
this Court's Judgment of September 21, 2000. The defendant opposes this
motion. After a full consideration of the Court's September Opinion and
Judgment, the parties' memoranda, the applicable law, and for the
following reasons, the Court DENIES the plaintiff's motion.
Lakeshia Dyson, the plaintiff, ingested Provera while pregnant in
1992. Provera is manufactured by Pharmacia & Upjohn ("P & U"), the
defendant. Dyson believes that the drug caused her son to be born with
multiple birth defects that eventually led to his death. To recover for
her loss, Dyson filed a products liability suit against P & U. In her
suit, Dyson alleged that the drug was defective because it was not
accompanied by an adequate warning to Dr. Joseph Winfield, the
prescribing physician. In her view, had an adequate warning been included
in the product's packaging, Dr. Winfield would not have prescribed the
drug to her and her child would not have been harmed.
Upon a motion for summary judgment by P & U, the Court found that Dyson
had failed to present evidence that an inadequate warning, if any, caused
Dr. Winfield to prescribe the drug. As support for this conclusion, the
Court cited the unrebutted testimony of Dr. Winfield, who stated
unequivocally that a different label on the drug would not have affected
his decision to prescribe the drug. See Memorandum Opinion, Sept. 21,
2000, at 10. Finding that this lack of evidence "severed" the "chain of
causation," the Court determined that Dyson's products liability case
could not proceed to trial. Id. at 11.
Dyson now returns to the Court and urges if to alter its judgment. She
asserts that the Court incorrectly applied controlling law. The Court now
considers her argument.
I. Standard of Review
A motion to alter or amend a judgment is reviewed under the same
standard as a motion for reconsideration: Upon a motion for
reconsideration, a court will revise its decision if it finds "(1) an
intervening change in controlling law, (2) the availability of new
evidence, or (3) the need to correct clear error or manifest injustice."
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. NASA, 109 F. Supp.2d 27, 28 (D.D.C. 2000)
(Lamberth, J.). See also Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1206
(D.C.Cir. 1996); EEOC v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 116 F.3d 110, 112 (4th
Cir. 1997). "A trial court has broad discretion to grant or deny a motion
for reconsideration." McDonnell Douglas, 109 F. Supp.2d at 28. See also
Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 233-34, 115 S.Ct. 1447,
131 L.Ed.2d 328 (1995); Liljeberg v. Health Services
Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 864, 108 S.Ct. 2194, 100 L.Ed.2d 855
II. The Causation Issue
After a second review of the issue, the Court finds that the plaintiff
has failed to adduce evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to
conclude that she was injured as a result of the allegedly inadequate
warning. The Court finds its decision to be squarely supported by the
controlling precedent of Mampe v. Ayerst Laboratories, 548 A.2d 798
Mampe involved a claim by an individual that an inadequately labeled
drug caused her severe medical problems. She alleged that an adequate
label would have apprised her physician of the attendant risks, and
therefore would have prevented him from prescribing if for her. The
District of Columbia Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that her
evidence of causation was lacking:
[the prescribing physician] specifically stated on
several occasions that he did not rely on the
manufacturer's warnings as a source of information
about the possible adverse reactions to [the drug].
Rather, he acquired his knowledge from a `variety of
different kinds of communications,' including medical
journals, lectures, and personal contact with his
Id. at 802. Finding thus that the plaintiff "could not prove that the
alleged inadequacy in [the drug's] warning was a proximate cause of her
injuries," the Court affirmed the lower court's order of summary judgment
against the plaintiff Id.
The instant case is squarely on point with Mampe. Dr. Winfield
unequivocally stated under oath that a change in the warning would have
had no effect on his decision to prescribe Provera for the plaintiff See
Winfield aff. ¶ 10. Thus, like in Mampe, the chain of causation has
been severed and the plaintiff's products liability claim must fail.
The plaintiff makes two arguments in her effort to change the Court's
decision. First, she argues that Payne v. Soft Sheen Products, 486 A.2d 712
(D.C. 1985) created a rebuttable presumption in inadequate warning cases
that the deficient warning was the cause of the physician's decision to
prescribe the medicine. The Payne court reasoned that to hold otherwise
would be to impose an "impossible burden" on the plaintiff Id. at 725.
Whatever the exact holding of Payne, the fact remains that Mampe was
decided after Payne and contains facts almost completely analogous to the
instant case.*fn1 Therefore, the Court feels confident that its decision
should be controlled by Mampe.
Second, the plaintiff argues that Dr. Winfield's statement that the
drug label — whatever its content — was irrelevant to his
decision to prescribe Provera is impossible to refute and thus creates an
"impossible burden" for her to overcome.*fn2 Brief for Plaintiff, Oct.
6, 2000, at 4. This does not compel the Court to alter ifs decision. All
sorts of situations might make if difficult to prove causation in a given
case, but that does not mean that the causation requirement should
automatically be abandoned. Rather, if should be required unless sound
reason suggests otherwise, such as in cases under the res ipsa loquitur
doctrine. Even if such reasoning might suggest a different decision in
this case, this Court,
sitting in diversity, is not empowered to undertake a de novo review of
the District of Columbia's settled precedent.
The Court's judgment thus stands unaltered.
For the foregoing reasons, if is hereby
ORDERED that the plaintiff's motion to alter or amend the Court's
September 21, 2000 Judgment is DENIED.