California jury returns defense verdict for Novartis.



E.D. Cal. -- United States District Court for the Eastern District of California

Complex Litigation


After a two-week long trial, a jury in the Eastern District of California returned a verdict in favor of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation in Hill v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. 1:06-cv-00939-JSR-SAB (E.D. Cal. June 26, 2013).  On June 24, 2013, Judge Jed Rakoff (sitting as a visiting judge from the Southern District of New York) had indicated that he would grant Novartis’s motion for a judgment as a matter of law on the issue of proximate causation, but allowed the jury to deliberate and render a verdict.  Plaintiff Chris Hill alleged that she developed osteonecrosis of the jaw as a result of receiving Zometa®, prescribed to prevent skeletal-related events such as bone fractures – a common complication of her renal cell carcinoma that had metastasized to her bones. 

Novartis argued that plaintiff failed to prove that a different or earlier warning would have altered the behavior of Ms. Hill’s prescribing and treating physicians.  Judge Rakoff agreed, finding that plaintiff had provided an “extraordinarily minute amount of relevant evidence” on the issue of proximate causation and that any decision of the jury would not be based on logic and be “nothing more than a guess.”  Judge Rakoff had already dismissed plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages, stating that there was no evidence “on which a reasonable juror could remotely find the elements of punitive damages.”

The Hill case was the twelfth trial out of consolidated litigation in federal and state courts alleging that osteonecrosis of the jaw resulted from treatment with Novartis’s medications Aredia® and Zometa®, which are used to treat patients who have cancer that has metastasized to bone.  Hill is the seventh win for the defense, preceded by wins in Meng v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. MID-L-7670-07-MT (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div.); Hogan v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. 06-Civ-260 (BMC) (EDNY); Kyle v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 1: 06-cv-00035-TBR (W.D. Ky); Brown v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. 7:08-CV-00130-FL (E.D.N.C.); Brodie v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. 4:10-cv-138-HEA (E.D. Mo. Feb. 1, 2012), and Bessemer v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. MID-L-1835-08-MT (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. Oct. 22, 2010), aff’d, No. A-2069-10T1, 2012 WL 2120777 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. June 13, 2012). 

Novartis has won 49 cases on summary judgment and obtained dismissal of over 150 other cases in the Aredia®/Zometa® federal and state consolidated litigations.

Novartis is represented in Hill by Firm partner Gregory S. Chernack.