McCarthy Tétrault successfully represents a healthcare company in the first pharmaceutical product liability class action trial in Canada

Montréal, November 3, 2016 — On October 19, 2016, the Superior Court of Québec released the first ever decision of a Canadian Court ruling on the merits of a pharmaceutical product liability common issues trial. In this recent decision [2016 QCCS 5083], Plaintiffs were alleging that the healthcare company was responsible for psychiatric reactions experienced by the class members while taking an antibiotic.

Justice Suzanne Hardy-Lemieux dismissed the action, concluding that the Plaintiffs had not met their burden of demonstrating that the antibiotic was the cause of the psychiatric reactions suffered by the class members. She stated that in the presence of strong evidence demonstrating the absence of causation, the Court could not base its decision on coincidental events that reveal, at best, low possibilities of causation. More specifically, Justice Hardy-Lemieux concluded that because of the blood-brain barrier protection, there was a minimal possibility that the drug could reach the brain and induce psychiatric reactions. The court also decided that individuals who consume generic versions of a drug have no claim against the manufacturer of the innovator drug.

This case is an important reminder that once a class action is certified, Plaintiffs, on the merits, still have the onus to establish causation on the balance of probabilities. In a pharmaceutical product liability case, such demonstration needs to be based on solid scientific and expert evidence in order to be successful. McCarthy Tétrault was retained after certification of the class action by the Superior Court of Québec, and assisted the healthcare company with a trial team led by Michel Gagne that included Emmanuelle Poupart, Steeves Bujold and Andrée-Anne Labbé.

“We are tremendously pleased with this landmark decision for our client and the excellent results delivered by our litigation team,” said Caroline Zayid, National Practice Group Lead, Litigation. “Our clients rely on us to understand their business, mitigate their risks and advocate for them at every turn. This is an important case, to both the pharmaceutical industry and class actions bar, as well as a perfect example of the excellence of our dispute resolution professionals across the country.”

McCarthy Tétrault’s integrated litigation practice includes more than 200 litigators across Canada. The firm’s litigators are experienced trial and appellate lawyers at all levels who have advised on cases across the spectrum — from complex litigation to insurance litigation and class actions. Sixty-seven of the firm’s lawyers have been appointed judges of the superior courts, the courts of appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.

About McCarthy Tétrault

McCarthy Tétrault LLP provides a broad range of legal services, advising on large and complex assignments for Canadian and international interests. The firm has substantial presence in Canada’s major commercial centres and in London, UK.

Built on an integrated approach to the practice of law and delivery of innovative client services, the firm brings its legal talent, industry insight and practice experience to help clients achieve the results that are important to them.