502 F.Supp. 297 (D.Md. 1980), Civ. A. M-79-1644, Fellows v. USV Pharmaceutical Corp.

Docket Nº:Civ. A. M-79-1644
Citation:502 F.Supp. 297
Party Name:Fellows v. USV Pharmaceutical Corp.
Case Date:November 13, 1980
Court:United States District Courts, 4th Circuit, District of Maryland

Page 297

502 F.Supp. 297 (D.Md. 1980)




Civ. A. No. M-79-1644.

United States District Court, D. Maryland.

Nov. 13, 1980

Page 298

Thomas W. Holland and Fletcher P. Thompson, Chevy Chase, Md., for plaintiff.

Michael A. Pretl, Baltimore, Md., for defendant.


JAMES R. MILLER, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff, George E. Fellows, brought this diversity action to recover damages for injuries he allegedly suffered from using doriden, a prescription drug. Defendant, USV Pharmaceutical Corporation (USV), manufactures and distributes doriden. This drug was prescribed for plaintiff by his physician, Dr. Frank Talbot, from approximately September, 1970, to September, 1976, to combat plaintiff's insomnia problem. During the relevant period, Dr. Talbot was treating plaintiff primarily for a heart condition and prescribed numerous other drugs.

Plaintiff alleges that on the advice of Dr. Talbot he ingested large amounts of doriden, and used it contemporaneously with other prescription drugs. Plaintiff further alleges that he informed Dr. Talbot that he was suffering from various "side effects," and that Dr. Talbot assured him that these were not due to doriden. This action, however, is solely against USV as the manufacturer of doriden.

Plaintiff's amended complaint (Paper No. 7) enumerates the following four theories of liability: (1) negligence; (2) breach of warranty of merchantability; (3) strict liability; and (4) misbranding. This case is now before the court on USV's motion for summary judgment (Paper No. 19), in which it

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contends that (1) plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations; (2) USV is not liable to plaintiff under any theory pleaded; and (3) the evidence fails to support plaintiff's claim of physical injuries. Since the court concludes that USV is not liable to plaintiff under any of the theories set out in the amended complaint, the statute of limitations and damages issues need not be addressed.

I. Count I-Negligence

The gist of plaintiff's negligence claim under count I is that USV breached a duty owing to plaintiff by failing to warn members of the public of the harmful effects that could result from using doriden (Paper No. 7, at PP 10-14). Plaintiff thus contends that USV failed to warn him of an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm. See generally Moran v. Faberge, Inc., 273 Md. 538, 544-46, 332 A.2d 11 (1975).

In the area of prescription drugs, as distinguished from those sold directly to the consumer, it is well established that the manufacturer's duty to warn is limited to advising the prescribing or treating physician of the drug's potential dangers. Absent special circumstances not present here, there is no duty to warn the ultimate consumer of the possible dangers associated with prescription drugs. See, e. g., Dunkin v. Syntex Laboratories, Inc., 443 F.Supp. 121, 123 (W.D.Tenn.1977); Pierluisi v. E. R. Squib & Sons, Inc., 440 F.Supp. 691, 694-95 (D.P.R.1977); Chambers v. G. D. Searle & Co., 441 F.Supp. 377, 381 (D.Md.1975), affirmed per curiam, 567 F.2d 269 (4th Cir. 1977). See generally, L. Frumer & M. Friedman, Products Liability s 33 (1980).

Plaintiff does not contend that USV was negligent in failing to warn adequately Dr. Talbot of the dangers associated with doriden (Plaintiff's Answers to Interrogatories, Paper No. 13, at P 10). Moreover, USV has produced evidence that its warnings regarding the possible side effects of doriden use were both adequate and communicated to Dr. Talbot, as well as the medical community at large (Talbot Deposition, Paper No. 18, at 15-18). Plaintiff has not attempted to refute this evidence.

Based on the materials of record, the court finds that USV has satisfied its burden of establishing initially the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to count I, Adickes v. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-61, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1609, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970), and that plaintiff has failed to set forth specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Kipps v. Ewell, 538 F.2d 564, 566 (4th Cir. 1976). The court holds, therefore, that since USV has breached no duty owing to plaintiff, USV is entitled to judgment as to count I as a matter of law.

II. Count II-Warranty of Merchantability

Plaintiff alleges in count II that USV breached its warranty of merchantability in violation of Md.Commercial Law Code Ann. s 2-314. To prevail on a warranty theory in a products liability case, a plaintiff must show not only the existence of a warranty, but also that the warranty was broken and that the breach was the proximate cause of the harm sustained. Fischbach & Moore International Corp. v. Crane Barge R-14, 476 F.Supp. 282, 287 (D.Md.1979); Mattos, Inc. v. Hash, 279 Md. 371, 378-79, 368 A.2d 993 (1977). To prove that a warranty of merchantability was broken, a plaintiff must establish...

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