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Punitive Damages in Chantix Suicide Lawsuit To Be Considered in First Trial

  • Written by: Austin Kirk
  • 1 Comment

The federal judge presiding over the first Chantix suicide lawsuit set to go before a jury next month, is allowing the plaintiff to pursue punitive damages against Pfizer over the psychiatric risks associated with their stop-smoking drug. 

In an order (PDF) issued September 18, U.S. District Judge Inge Prytz Johnson granted a motion filed by Judy Ann Whitely to amend her complaint filed over the suicide death of her husband, which was allegedly caused by side effects of Chantix.

Whitely has been allowed to add a claim for punitive damages, alleging that Pfizer knew or intentionally diregarded facts that Chantix causes an increased risk of suicide, depression and other psychological side effects. However, Judge Johnson indicates that the court has no opinion at this time about whether Whitely can successfully prove such a claim by the “clear and convincing evidence” that are required for punitive damages to be awarded.

The case is currently scheduled for the first Chantix “bellwether” trial date in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), which has been established to centralize all lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country before Judge Johnson in the Northern District of Alabama.

Chantix Trial Set to Begin October 22

Chantix (varenicline) was approved in the United States in 2006, as a prescription medication to help people quit smoking. The drug works by reducing the positive feelings that come from cigarettes, blocking the receptors in the brain commonly stimulated by nicotine.

Within months after the medication was introduced, reports began to surface about individuals committing suicide or engaging in other unusual behavior on Chantix, which was allegedly caused by the neuropsychological effects of the medication on the brain.

In July 2009, the FDA added a “black box” label warning to the smoking cessation drug about the risks of psychological side effects, which Judge Johnson already determined last month was adequate as a matter of law to alert people about the potential psychological side effects of Chantix.

About 2,000 Chantix lawsuits are currently pending against Pfizer involving the stop-smoking drug, and the Whitely case is among a small group that were selected for early trial dates, to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to similar evidence that may be introduced throughout the litigation.

Trial in the Whitely case is scheduled to begin on October 22, 2012, and it will be followed by a second trial scheduled to start on January 22, 2013.

The potential addition of punitive damages could result in a blockbuster jury award if the plaintiff wins the case. Punitive damages are meant to punish for bad conduct and can be up to triple the amount paid in compensatory damages.

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1 comment

  1. BONNIE LIN Reply

    MY SON DAVID–DIED BY SUICIDE ON JUNE 6, 2007 DUE A BAD PSYCHOTIC EVENT FROM THE DRUG CHANTIX WHICH IS MANUFACTURED AND SOLD BY THE THE BIG DRUG COMPANY PFIZER. WHEN HE TOOK THIS DRUG IT WAS NOT LABELED CONCERNING IT SIDE EFFECTS AND WARNINGS OR HIS DR. AND US AND HIS PARENTS WOULD HAVE NEVER LEFT HIM TAKE IT. HE HAD NO MENTAL OR ANY OTHER PHYSICAL PROBLEMS –HE WAS A HEALTHY 21 YEAR OLD JUST TRYING TO QUIT SMOKING AND THIS HORRIBLE DRUG KILLED HIM AND NOW WE ARE LEFT WITHOUT OUR DEAR SON AND YEARS OF GRIEF, DEPRESSION, POST TRAUMACTIC STRESS, ANGER, NIGHTMARES AND THE PAIN JUST GOES ON AND ON..BECAUSE I FOUND MY PRECIOUS SON–HANGING IN HIS BEDROOM CLOSET WITH HIS FAITHFUL DOG FRECKES LAYING AT HIS FEET—WHO I NOW STILL HAVE AND HE IS THE ONLY LIVING THING I HAVE OF DAVE\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’S…AMEN…THERE HAVE BEEN OVER 200 DEATHS IN THE CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT WE ARE IN AND DAVE\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’S CASE WAS THE NUMBER ONE CASE THEY USED BECAUSE HE WAS THE YOUNGEST ONLY 21…I AM SURE THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY THERE HAVE BEEN MORE DEATHS…WHAT IS WRONG WITH PFIZER DON\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’T THEY CARE ABOUT PEOPLE\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’S LIVES AND LOVED ONES IS IT ALL ABOUT THE PROFITS AND THE MONEY…WELL ALL I CAN SAY IS THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD STEP IN AND TAKE THAT KILLER DRUG OFF THE MARKET BEFORE MORE PEOPLE DIE….HOW MANY MORE INNOCENT PEOPLE HAVE TO DIE SO PFIZER CAN LINE THEIR POCKET WITH PROFITS, STOCKS, SHARES AND ALL THE REST FROM THIS DEADLY DRUG THAT KILLS PEOPLE….IT KILLED MY 21 YEAR OLD SON—I WILL NEVER GET A CHANCE TO SEE HIM GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE, PERSUE HIS DREAM OF A CAREER IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, GET MARRIED, HAVE CHILDREN, ENJOY LIFE AND LIVE IT TO THE FULLEST WITH HIS MOM, DAD. BROTHER, SISTER, NIECES, NEPHEW, NA NA, POP POP, HIS DEAR FRIENDS, RELATIVES AND HIS DOG FRECKLES! AMEN. THE HARDSHIP THIS DRUG CHANTIX CAUSED OUR FAMILY IS BEYOND ANYONE\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’S BELIEF…WE LOST OUR SON…I HAD NUMEROUS NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS, MOVED FROM THE HOUSE BECAUSE MY HUSBAND THOUGHT THAT WOULD HELPED BUT IT DIDN\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’T IT MADE IT WORSE AND WE LOST A FORTUNE SELLING OUR HOUSE DUE TO THE TERRIBLE ECONOMY…I STILL HAVE TERRIBLE NIGHTMARES AND MY MENTAL HEALTH IS VERY UNSTABLE BUT I AM TAKING ONE DAY AT A TIME AND THANK GOD FOR MY THREE LITTLE GRANDCHILDREN THEY ARE THE SUNSHINES OF MY LIFE….OF I PROBABLY WOULD NOT BE HERE TODAY…SO PFIZER I HOPE YOU ARE PROUD OF YOURSELF KILLING PEOPLE AND DESTROYING THEIR LOVED ONES AND THEIR DREAMS OF THEIR CHILDREN. I HOPE YOU ALL BURN IN HELL…BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN THROUGH THE LAST 6 YEARS SINCE MY DEAR SON DAVE PASSED AWAY FROM YOUR KILLER DRUG CHANTIX. GOD REST HIS SOUL HE NEVER EVER DESERVED TO DIE THAT HORRIBLE WAY….HE WAS SUCH A LOVING, KIND, CARING YOUNG MAN WHO HAD THE REST OF HIS LIFE TO LIVE AND CHANTIX (PFIZER) TOOK THAT ALL AWAY FROM HIM AND HIS FAMILY. AMEN.

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