The first bellwether trial against Fresenius Medical Care over a wrongful death allegedly caused by side effects of the dialysis treatment NaturaLyte has ended in a defense verdict, after the family opted out of settlement offered last year to resolve thousands of similar cases filed nationwide.
The case involved a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Carley Dial, a North Carolina man who suffered a cardiac arrest at a Fresenius dialysis clinic in 2012, after undergoing treatment with the dialysate solution NaturaLyte.
Several thousand complaints were filed against Fresenius following a March 2012 recall, which was issued after the dialysis company acknowledged that Granuflo and Naturalyte solutions may increase the risk of patients suffering a sudden cardiac arrest if bicarbonate levels are not closely monitored during treatment. Each of the lawsuits raised similar allegations that the company failed to adequately warn doctors, and withheld information about reports of cardiac arrest and deaths at dialysis centers due to the side effects of the products.
Last year, Fresenius agreed to pay $250 million to resolve cases filed by individuals nationwide. However, a number of plaintiffs opted out of the deal, after deciding that the settlement failed to provide sufficient compensation. As a result, the Dial case was considered a “bellwether” trial, which may gauge how juries will respond to similar evidence and testimony that may be offered in other claims that did not settle.
Following a two-week trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, a federal jury found that Dial’s family failed to meet the necessary burden of proof to establish that the the death was caused by the dialysis treatment
On Friday, the jury returned a verdict form (PDF) indicating that the Plaintiff had not “established by a fair preponderance of the evidence that the use of NaturaLyte in Carley Dial’s hemodialysis treatments after receipt of his January 23, 2012 test results was a proximate cause of his death, in the sense that it was a cause which in natural and continuous sequence unbroken by any new and independent cause produced his death and without which his death would not have occurred.”
The outcome will not have any binding effect on other unresolved cases, which may be set for trial in courts throughout the federal court system if they are not resolved.