Thursday, December 21, 2017

T.H. v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, S233898

Duty of care: Negligence: Tort:

Duty is indeed the cornerstone of every negligence claim. In California, the general rule governing duty is codified in Civil Code section 1714, subdivision (a): “Everyone is responsible . . . for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person . . . .” Thus, “each person has a duty to use ordinary care and ‘is liable for injuries caused by his failure to exercise reasonable care in the circumstances . . . .’” (Parsons v. Crown Disposal Co. (1997) 15 Cal.4th 456, 472.) Whether a party has a duty of care in a particular case is a question of law for the court, which we review independently on appeal. (Kesner v. Superior Court (2016) 1 Cal.5th 1132, 1142 (Kesner).)

The conclusion that a duty exists in a particular case “‘is not sacrosanct in itself, but only an expression of the sum total of those considerations of policy which lead the law to say that the particular plaintiff is entitled to protection.’” (Dillon v. Legg (1968) 68 Cal.2d 728, 734, quoting Prosser, Law of Torts (3d ed. 1964) pp. 332-333.) We invoke the concept of duty to limit “‘the otherwise potentially infinite liability which would follow from every negligent act,’” yet we do so only where public policy clearly supports (or a statutory provision establishes) an exception to the general rule of Civil Code section 1714. (Kesner, supra, 1 Cal.5th at p. 1143.) When considering whether to depart from the general rule, we balance a number of considerations, including “the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff, the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, the closeness of the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the defendant’s conduct, the policy of preventing future harm, the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to the community of imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting liability for breach, and the availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved.” (Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 113 (Rowland).)

In the context of prescription drugs, a manufacturer’s duty is to warn physicians about the risks known or reasonably known to the manufacturer. (Carlin v. Superior Court (1996) 13 Cal.4th 1104, 1112 (Carlin); see generally Finn v. G.D. Searle & Co. (1984) 35 Cal.3d 691, 699-700.) The manufacturer has no duty to warn of risks that are “merely speculative or conjectural, or so remote and insignificant as to be negligible.” (Carlin, at p. 1116.) If the manufacturer provides an adequate warning to the prescribing physician, the manufacturer need not communicate a warning directly to the patient who uses the drug. (Ibid.)

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

Le devoir de diligence est une des conditions centrales de l'obligation de réparer un dommage en responsabilité civile. La Californie l'a codifié à la Section 1714(a) de son Code civil. Le critère est l'exercice d'un devoir de diligence raisonnable compte tenu des circonstances. Déterminer si une partie est tenue par un devoir de diligence dans une situation particulière est une question de droit, que la Cour Suprême de l'état revoit de manière indépendante. Pour résoudre cette question de droit, dite Cour examine les notions de la prévisibilité du dommage causé, de la preuve du dommage, du lien de causalité entre l'acte et le dommage, du reproche moral attaché à l'acte, de la prévention d'un dommage futur, du fardeau qu'une responsabilité ferait porter à l'auteur, des conséquences pour l'ensemble de la communauté qui découleraient d'un jugement reconnaissant une responsabilité, ainsi que de la disponibilité et du coût d'une assurance couvrant le risque examiné.

Dans le domaine des produits pharmaceutiques, le devoir du fabricant est d'avertir la communauté médicale des risques connus ou qui doivent raisonnablement être connus. Si l'avertissement est donné aux médecins, il n'a pas à être donné directement aux patients.

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