Expert Article Library

Court Places Limits on Pharmacologist's Expert Testimony

Case Name: Meridia Products Liability Litigation v. Abbott Laboratories (Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; on appeal from District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Akron

Date: May 11, 2006

Expert: Medical Expert (Pharmacology). Dr. Arnold Schwartz, Ph.D. Qualified pharmacologist

Issues: Did the trial court abuse its discretion by excluding evidence provided by Schwartz, a pharmacologist, on the cardiac health effects of high blood pressure

Summary of case: In this product liability case plaintiffs sued makers of the diet drug Meridia, claiming that the drug was ineffective, had caused them a variety of injuries, and put them at increased risk of developing injuries in the future. The district court excluded part of Schwartz’s expert testimony and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The plaintiffs appealed.

Role of the expert: Schwartz provided testimony relating to the effect of the drug Meridia on the body; specifically, he testified that the drug temporarily increases blood pressure in some people. Schwartz also gave testimony that the drug may lead to elevated blood pressure and stated that the health risk posed by high blood pressure outweighs the health benefit of weight loss.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: The district court excluded Dr. Schwartz’s testimony on the health consequences of high blood pressure and his assertion that the health risks of the drug outweighed the drug’s health benefits. The district court stated that Schwartz was not a cardiologist and so whilst he was allowed to testify about the effects of the drug on the body (i.e., that the drug temporarily increased blood pressure), he was not an expert on the health effects of high blood pressure more generally. The Court of Appeals affirmed that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding Schwartz’s testimony.

Summary prepared by R. Zapparoni