Thursday, December 21, 2017

T.H. v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, S233898

Misrepresentation (California law): Duty of care: Warning: Product warning: Failure to warn: Strict liability: Negligence: Sophisticated user & intermediary defenses: Tort:

Under our state’s law, there is no per se requirement in negligent misrepresentation actions that the misrepresentation be made by the product
manufacturer. Consider Hanberry v. Hearst Corp. (1969) 276 Cal.App.2d 680, where the plaintiff alleged that defective shoes caused her injuries. (Id. at p. 682.) The Court of Appeal allowed the negligent misrepresentation claims to go forward against a nonmanufacturer — the publisher of Good Housekeeping magazine, which had given the shoes its renowned seal of approval. (Id. at p. 683.) This seal appeared not only in the pages of its own magazine, but was used by the shoe manufacturer in its advertising as well as on the product and its packaging. (Ibid.) The court acknowledged that the defendant publisher was neither the seller nor the manufacturer of the shoes, but nonetheless recognized a duty of care because of the allegations that the publisher “held itself out as a disinterested third party which had examined the shoes, found them satisfactory, and gave its endorsement”; and the plaintiff reasonably relied on the endorsement and “purchased the shoes because of it.” (Id. at pp. 686, 683.) As to the plaintiff’s claim under strict liability, however, the court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal — declining to extend strict liability “to a general endorser who makes no representation it has examined or tested each item marketed.” (Id. at p. 688; see also Conte, 168 Cal.App.4th at pp. 101-102 [similarly distinguishing between strict liability and negligent misrepresentation theories].)

Novartis suggests that we recently conflated strict liability and negligence in Webb v. Special Electric Co., Inc. (2016) 63 Cal.4th 167 when we observed that "there is little functional difference between the two theories in the failure to warn context." (Id. at p. 187.) Not so. Webb’s observation was merely that the sophisticated user and sophisticated intermediary defenses applied to both theories of liability. (Ibid.) We did not categorically alter our longstanding recognition that “California law recognizes the differences between negligence and strict liability causes of action.” (Johnson v. American Standard , Inc. (2008) 43 Cal. 4th 56, 71; see Saller v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., Inc. (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th 1220, 1239 ["Negligence and strict products liability are separate and distinct bases for liability that do not automatically collapse into each other because the plaintiff might allege both when a product warning contributes to her injury"].)

We likewise discount decisions from those jurisdictions that differ from California by categorically excluding from liability certain defendants (see, e.g., Huck v. Wyeth, Inc., 850 N.W.2d at p. 371 (plur. opn. of Waterman, J.) [“the tort of negligent misrepresentation does not apply to sellers of products but rather is limited to those in the business or profession of supplying information for the guidance of others”]) or certain injuries (see, e.g., Flynn v. American Home Products Corp. (Minn.Ct.App. 2001) 627 N.W.2d 342, 351 [“the Minnesota Supreme Court has recognized negligent misrepresentation involving damages only for pecuniary loss, and has expressly declined to recognize the tort of negligent misrepresentation involving the risk of physical harm”]) from the tort of negligent misrepresentation. And we find unhelpful the views of those jurisdictions that (federal courts predict) will recharacterize under their product liability act or similar rule all claims against a product manufacturer, no matter the theory, as product liability actions, which can be asserted only against the manufacturer of the product. (See, e.g., Germain, 756 F.3d at pp. 941-954 [construing the laws of Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia]; Phelps v. Wyeth, Inc. (D.Or. 2012) 857 F.Supp.2d 1114, 1121 [Oregon law]; Stanley v. Wyeth, Inc. (La.Ct.App. 2008) 991 So.2d 31, 33-34 [noting the “numerous cases where the negligent misrepresentation claims were . . . preempted by . . . a state’s enactment of products liability law”].)

We find that brand-name drug manufacturers have a duty to use ordinary care in warning about the safety risks of their drugs, regardless of whether the injured party (in reliance on the brand-name manufacturer’s warning) was dispensed the brand-name or generic version of the drug. We also conclude that a brand-name manufacturer’s sale of the rights to a drug does not, as a matter of law, terminate its liability for injuries foreseeably and proximately caused by deficiencies present in the warning label prior to the sale.

(Cal. S.C., Dec. 21, 2017, T.H. v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, S233898).

Responsabilité civile et contractuelle (droit californien), déclaration inexacte ("misrepresentation") :

En droit californien, une action en dommages-intérêts fondée sur une déclaration inexacte peut être déposée contre d'autres défendeurs que le seul fabricant du produit. Par exemple, dans une procédure où le demandeur soutenait que des chaussures lui avaient causé un préjudice corporel, la cour a accepté comme défendeur un magazine très connu qui avait fait l'éloge de ces chaussures dans l'un de ses articles. La cour a reconnu que le magazine n'était ni le fabricant ni le vendeur des chaussures, mais qu'il était tout de même tenu par un devoir de diligence du fait qu'il s'était présenté comme une tierce partie désintéressée qui avait examiné les chaussures, les avait jugées satisfaisantes, et en avait fait ainsi la promotion. En outre, le demandeur s'était raisonnablement fié à dite promotion, et, du fait de celle-ci, avait acheté les chaussures. Une telle action reste une action en responsabilité pour faute, et non une action en responsabilité causale : le magazine n'a pas suggéré qu'il avait examiné ou testé chacune des chaussures mises sur le marché.

La responsabilité pour faute ("negligence") doit toujours être distinguée des cas de responsabilité objective ("strict liability"), même si un demandeur qui agit en responsabilité du fait des produits invoque ces deux notions juridiques.

La Cour rejette par ailleurs la jurisprudence d'autres états qui exclut catégoriquement la responsabilité pour déclaration inexacte de certains défendeurs (est citée comme exemple une décision d'un autre état qui exclut le vendeur des défendeurs possibles dans le cadre d'une action en responsabilité pour faute du fait d'une déclaration inexacte, et qui ne retient comme défendeurs possibles que ceux dont le métier en lui-même consiste à donner des informations) ou qui limites dite responsabilité à certains types de dommages (par exemple la jurisprudence de certains autres états qui limite au dommage matériel la responsabilité pour déclaration inexacte, et la prohibe s'agissant du préjudice corporel).

Dans la présente espèce, la Cour juge que le fabricant d'un produit pharmaceutique doit aviser des risques de ses produits. Il peut être recherché à cet égard en responsabilité même par un demandeur à qui le générique a été prescrit. Ce devoir d'avis des risques se prolonge même si le fabricant cède ses droits sur le produit.

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