Pharmaceutical company escapes punitive damages sought by stroke victim

By Elizabeth Alt | Aug 9, 2018


A man claimed the drug Tasigna caused a stroke.   Courtesy of halachipedia.com

WEST PALM BEACH –– A man who blamed the drug Tasigna for a debilitating stroke cannot seek punitive damages in his lawsuit, a federal judge ruled July 31. 

Judge Robin Rosenberg of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District Court of Florida found Dennis and Lori McWilliams could not use New Jersey's exception on the prohibition of punitive damages, because the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) preempts the state law. 

Dennis and Lori McWilliams had asked the court to reconsider an earlier summary judgment in favor of the drug maker Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. 

They brought a lawsuit against the company last year, alleging Tasigna, which McWilliams took for his chronic myeloid leukemia, caused a stroke. 


Judge Robin Rosenberg of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District Court of Florida wrote the decision   U.S. District Court for the Southern District Court of Florida

In her ruling, Rosenberg wrote the couple was not entitled to punitive damages because New Jersey law generally “prohibits an award of punitive damages in products liability actions where the drug that caused the harm was subject to pre-approval by the [Food and Drug Administration]."

The McWilliams' attorney argued Novartis withheld information about the drug and misled the FDA, which is an exception to the New Jersey statute. 

However, Rosenberg explained such an exception would put the state of New Jersey in an unenviable position of investigating products already approved on a federal level. 

“Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages poses an obstacle to the objectives and purpose of the FDCA and is therefore preempted by the FDCA,” Rosenberg wrote. 

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