Dec. 5, 2018 – Los Angeles, California – – The National Law Journal has recognized the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman in its 2018 Elite Trial Lawyers list for pharmaceutical litigation based on the firm’s work in a high-profile case against drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.

Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman was also selected as a finalist for consumer protection based on a case stemming from the Germanwings plane crash in 2015.

The National Law Journal and ALM Media honors law firms and lawyers who are handling cutting-edge work on behalf of plaintiffs in practice areas ranging from mass torts to securities litigation. Editors and reporters from National Law Journal, VerdictSearch and Law.com reviewed more than 300 submissions across 23 categories to select the finalists for the 2018 Elite Trial Lawyers.

After narrowing the field to several finalists in each practice area over the summer, the winners were announced this week in the print issue of the National Law Journal.

Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman’s Work on Dolin v. SmithKline Beecham Earns 2018 Elite Trial Lawyers Honor

The National Law Journal and ALM Media selected Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman as the winner of the 2018 Elite Trial Lawyers for pharmaceutical litigation based on the case of Wendy Dolin v. SmithKline Beecham Corporation D/B/A GlaxoSmithKline (Case No. 12 cv 6403, United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division).

The complex, high-profile case involved a prominent Chicago attorney who committed suicide while under the influence of generic paroxetine, an antidepressant sold under the brand name Paxil. Stewart Dolin was debt free, financially secure and happily married when he abruptly left work at the law offices of Reed Smith early on the afternoon of July 15, 2010 and jumped in front of a moving train. His death sent shock waves through the Chicago legal community and devastated his family and friends.

Following Stewart’s death, his wife Wendy Dolin retained Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman to represent her. Dolin’s lawsuit alleged GSK failed to warn consumers and the medical community about the increased risk of suicide among adults taking Paxil over the age of 24.  Stewart Dolin was 57 years old at the time of his suicide.

According to Dolin’s attorneys, GSK was aware of the suicide risk among adults of all ages, even before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Paxil. Nevertheless, GSK never warned the medical community of the suicide risk.

According to the complaint’s allegations, the original clinical trial data for paroxetine showed a nine-fold increased risk of suicidal behavior, but GSK incorrectly presented the data to the FDA and never issued a warning on the Paxil label. Internally, GSK acknowledged the incorrect suicide data but continued to mislead the FDA, the medical community and the public.

In 2003, the FDA learned that GSK was using the term emotional lability to code certain adverse events, nearly all of which related to suicidality. The finding prompted the FDA to investigate suicide for all selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

While GSK’s incomplete adult suicidality data was being reviewed by the FDA, GSK conducted its own analysis of the data and concluded that paroxetine was associated with a statistically-significant 6.7-fold increased risk of suicidal behavior in depressed adults of all ages.”

After five weeks of trial, an Illinois jury found GSK negligent for failing to place a suicide warning in the paroxetine label and that failure resulted in Stewart Dolin’s death. The jury awarded his widow $3 million on April 20, 2017.

The jury verdict was a significant legal victory, not just for Wendy Dolin, but also for consumers of generic medications – it is the first jury verdict to hold a brand name drug manufacturer responsible for the death of a person taking a generic version of a drug.

Under FDA regulations, a brand name manufacturer is responsible for the accuracy of its drug label at all times, while a generic drug company must only ensure its label is identical to the branded drug.

The court allowed the case to proceed to trial after ruling that a brand name manufacturer is responsible for foreseeable harms induced by inaccuracies in its drug label since the generic manufacturer must mimic the brand name manufacturer’s label exactly.

The court’s ruling also addressed a gap in consumer protection following the Supreme Court’s decision in Pliva v. Mensing, which held that failure to warn claims against generic manufacturers are preempted by federal law.

Following the jury verdict, GSK filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  The Seventh Circuit did not address whether a brand name manufacturer can be held liable for an injury when a patient ingests a generic drug, however, it ruled in GSK’s favor on federal preemption grounds. The Seventh Circuit speculated that the FDA would not have allowed GSK to issue a paroxetine-specific warning because the agency opted, instead, for a class warning applicable to all antidepressants (limiting the suicide risk to children, adolescents and young adults up to the age of 24).   Baum Hedlund submitted a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on December 19, 2018, on Wendy Dolin’s behalf.

Dolin Case is the Culmination of Years of Hard Work in Paxil Suicide Litigation

Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman started litigating Paxil injury cases in 2001. The firm obtained millions of pages of internal GSK documents in discovery, took dozens of depositions of GSK employees, recruited and worked with some of the most talented experts in the world and successfully defeated persistent attempts by the drug manufacturer to dismiss the cases.

The documents uncovered in the litigation were instrumental in exposing systemic corruption in the pharmaceutical industry. They were the subject of numerous investigative news reports, television programs, documentaries, congressional investigations, and regulatory actions around the world.

The Dolin case is the culmination of nearly two decades of work by Baum Hedlund attorneys, staff, clients and experts. The Dolin verdict and the National Law Journal’s recognition of the firm stands as a crowning achievement for the firm’s pharmaceutical litigation team.

More information on our generic Paxil suicide lawsuits

Dolin trial transcripts

Dolin trial exhibits

Firm Recognized for Germanwings Decision in Pilot Suicide Case

In addition to the Dolin case, the National Law Journal selected Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman as the second place finalist for 2018 Elite Trial Lawyer honors in the practice area of consumer protection based on the firm’s work in Selke, et al. v. Germanwings GMBH, et al. (Case No. 1:17–cv–00121–GBL–TCB).

On March 24, 2015, Yvonne and Emily Selke boarded Germanwings Flight 9525, which was scheduled to fly from Barcelona, Spain to Düsseldorf, Germany. Less than an hour into the flight, co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked the flight captain out of the cockpit and steered the aircraft into a drastic descent. The Selkes, along with 148 other people aboard Germanwings Flight 9525, experienced extreme terror as the plane descended and crashed into mountainous terrain, killing everyone onboard.

Baum Hedlund filed suit against Germanwings and other defendants in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of surviving members of the Selke family. Germanwings filed a motion to dismiss the case, alleging lack of personal jurisdiction over it in Virginia on the grounds that it was a German corporation with no office in the U.S., had never flown its planes into the U.S., and that tickets for the fatal flight were not codeshare tickets with United Airlines.

On July 20, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled that the “Court has personal jurisdiction over Germanwings because the airline purposely availed itself of Virginia by transacting business in the Commonwealth through its agent, United. This business activity resulted in the sale of tickets that gave rise to Plaintiffs’ cause of action.”

This was a significant ruling “[g]iven the tide of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have restricted personal jurisdiction,” says Baum Hedlund attorney A. Ilyas Akbari. “This decision should serve as a ray of sunshine to the plaintiffs’ community, especially in international plane crash cases. Our case shows that if American residents are killed while flying overseas, their families can still bring an action against a foreign airline in America.”

Our firm would like to thank the National Law Journal and ALM Media for recognizing our work in pharmaceutical litigation and consumer protection.