Schwartz Shares Five Lessons from MDL Judge’s Rejection of Causation Testimony

Shook, Hardy & Bacon Public Policy Co-Chair Victor Schwartz authored a May 13 Washington Legal Foundation article, “In re Zoloft MDLF Judge’s Rejection of Causation Testimony Provides Helpful Lessons for Bench and Bar,” which examines the ruling in In re Zoloft Products Liability Litigation to demonstrate “how expert evidence of general and specific causation should be scrutinized in a pharmaceutical case.”

Schwartz notes that “one of the most challenging areas of modern tort litigation is whether scientific and medical experts should be permitted to provide testimony to a jury about causation in pharmaceutical cases” and explains that courts might draw false conclusions by believing a particular drug directly caused an adverse event.

In examining Judge Rufe’s ruling in In re Zoloft Products Liability Litigation, Schwartz shares five key lessons from the ruling. First, Schwartz states that general causation must be established before specific causation. Second, he notes that when epidemiological evidence is available, it cannot be circumvented. Third, Schwartz explains that evidentiary decisions are not driven by quantity of evidence, but quality. Fourth, courts must not simply believe an expert for his prestigious title, but for the source material from which he is drawing his conclusions. Lastly, Schwartz exerts that “when plaintiffs’ counsel consistently fail to provide reliable expert evidence on causation, the case should be dismissed.”

Schwartz concludes by emphasizing the importance of the Judge’s ruling in In re Zoloft Products Liability Litigation, as “it delves into the practical and high-stakes world of pharmaceutical litigation, and it shows exactly how a court should comprehensively analyze expert evidence and separate the wheat from the chaff on causation issues.”