Reglan Case Process - A Description of How Cases Proceed
Recovering damages for side effects caused by harmful prescription drugs is a step-by-step process. Like any other personal injury/product liability case, it requires a certain amount of preparation on the part of both client and legal counsel if it to be successful.
Step One: Establish Grounds
Legally, anyone can sue anyone else over almost any issue. However, in order to do so, one must have a case with grounds for action. In pharmaceutical lawsuits, this means the plaintiff (the one bringing the suit) must provide clear and convincing evidence that their condition was due to the side effect of the drug in question.
In this case, there is no shortage of scientific evidence that Reglan plays a large part in causing the symptoms of the movement disorder known as tardive dyskinesia. However, it will be necessary to have a solid medical history that includes:
- The manufacturer of the drug*
- The condition for which it was prescribed
- When treatment began
- How long the medication was taken
- When the medication was withdrawn
- When symptoms began to manifest
* In one recent California case, the state Supreme Court ruled that a company can also be held liable for "failure to warn" even if the actual product was manufactured by a second company.
Once this information has been established and documented, it is time to actually file the complaint.
Step Two: Filing Suit
It is the right of every citizen to file suit on their own behalf, but it is better to allow one's legal counsel to do so; mistakes in filing a legal action can cause potentially serious complications should the case come to trial.
Filing a lawsuit involves filling a form that declares the following:
- The nature of the complaint
- The party against whom action is being taken
- When/where the cause for action (injury) took place
- The remedy (compensation) being sought
This information will be provided, or "served" to the drug company's legal department – which is why it is best to have a qualified lawyer actually do this paperwork. Lawyers are trained in the use of precise language that leaves no room for question as to why the defendant (the company) is being sued. If this is not completely clear, the defendant's counsel may make a motion to dismiss. This may or may not be granted by the court, but can cause delay in the proceedings.
Step Three: Discovery
As both sides prepare for trial, there is a period during which evidence is gathered and organized and depositions (sworn testimony) is taken. Evidence in a Reglan case can include (but is not limited to):
- Medical and prescription records
- Published research
- Expert testimony
- Videos of the patient
During the "discovery" process, the defendant will also be gathering evidence with which argue their case; each side has a legal right to examine any evidence gathered by the other.
As discovery proceeds, the case will be scheduled for hearing, or "placed on the docket." During this time, one side or the other may move to settle the case out-of-court in order to avoid the time, expense and publicity of a trial. Most tort cases are settled in this manner; however, it is too soon to see if most Reglan litigation will result in settlements; most of these so far have gone to trial and been decided in favor of the plaintiff, but victory is never a foregone conclusion.
Step Four: Jury Selection
Not all tort cases are heard by a jury; some are "bench trials," which are heard before a judge alone. However, if the proceeding is to be a jury trial, both sides will have the opportunity to interview prospective jurors from a pool of average citizens. Each side may reject a certain number of jurors for any reason.
Step Five: The Trial
Assuming that the two sides have been unable to come to an agreement, the trial begins on the appointed date with opening arguments from the lawyers for both sides. Over the course of the trial, evidence is presented by both sides; each party attempts to refute the evidence of the other. Expert witnesses for both sides are brought in to testify. The plaintiff is also subject to questioning by their own lawyer as well as that of the defendant.
Although a trial can be a lengthy and stressful experience, it is rarely as dramatic as portrayed in popular television shows. In any event, once all evidence has been presented, counsel for both sides will present closing arguments to the jury, which then retires to consider its verdict.
Step Six: The Appeal Process
Assuming the Reglan case is successful, it is likely that the jury will award the plaintiff a substantial amount; in some cases, Reglan judgments awarded so far have run to nearly $7 million. However, these awards are invariably appealed to higher courts by the defendant. The good news here is that so far, higher courts have generally upheld these awards; even the Supreme Court of the United States recently upheld a $6.7 million award to a Vermont woman who lost an arm due to the side effects of a dopamine antagonist similar to Reglan, manufactured by the same company.