Trials & Litigation

Widow of BigLaw partner loses en banc petition in wrongful-death lawsuit

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Willy Barton./

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied a petition to rehear a wrongful-death finding involving GlaxoSmithKline and a former Reed Smith partner who died by suicide while taking a generic version of the prescribed antidepressant Paxil.

Wendy Dolin, who was Stewart Dolin’s wife, alleged that GSK failed to warn people that the drug could cause suicide deaths in older users, Bloomberg Big Law Business reports. She sought $12 million in damages. A federal jury awarded her $3 million in 2017.

The defense appealed to the 7th Circuit, which overturned the verdict in August. The panel found that the wording on the drug labels was mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Dolin’s labeling claim under Illinois law was pre-empted by federal law.

The company in 2006 acted unilaterally to warn of an increased risk of suicide attempts among adults with major depressive disorder who were taking the drug, particularly in younger adults, according to the August opinion.

The FDA overrode GSK the next year when it required new, uniform warning labels for all selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, including paroxetine. The required labels said the effect of SSRIs appears to be neutral on suicidal behavior and “possibly protective for suicidality for adults between the ages of 25 and 64.”

Stewart Dolin died in 2010 after he stepped in front of a Chicago commuter train. He was a corporate and securities partner with Sachnoff & Weaver before it merged with Reed Smith.

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