August 22, 2013 – Late yesterday, Cook County Illinois Judge William J. Haddad denied Abbott Laboratories’ and Abbvie, Inc.’s motion for a new trial and to set aside the verdict in the case of Tietz v. Abbott.  This case, involving North Dakota woman Delores Tietz and the blockbuster prescription drug Humira, went to trial in May.  The jury found Abbott negligent in failing to alert doctors about the increased risks of fungal infections associated with Humira and ordered it to pay $2,244,063.20.

In denying Abbott’s motion for a new trial, Judge Haddad wrote that the special interrogatories provided by Abbott in an effort to prevail at trial were a “capricious query” that was legally insufficient to overrule the jury’s finding against them.  The court also found that despite its insistence, Abbott cannot use the FDA or its regulations to avoid their duty of ordinary care under state law.  Judgment was entered against Abbott and the jury’s verdict against Abbott stands.

Delores Tietz, was prescribed Humira, a TNF Blocker, for rheumatoid arthritis in October 2009 and took the drug for close to seven months.  In early May 2010, Delores began experiencing chest pain and fevers.  The cause of her illness went undiagnosed for weeks despite extensive efforts by her treating doctors to diagnose her. Her family was told it was probable that she would not survive as she became comatose and unresponsive.  Finally, doctors diagnosed her with Humira-induced disseminated histoplasmosis, a severe, life-threatening infection.

Unknown to Delores’ doctors, the FDA issued an alert in September 2008 to all manufacturers of TNF blockers, including Abbott, to provide new information to the medical community about the risks of unrecognized, drug-induced histoplasmosis.  Abbott did not send a letter directly to physicians warning of this danger until May 17, 2010, 20 months after the initial FDA alert and 10 days after Mrs. Tietz was hospitalized.  The jury found that Abbott was negligent for not taking reasonable measures to make sure Delores’ doctors had a high index of suspicion for histoplasmosis.

Milton Tietz is represented by Andy Vickery and Fred Shepherd of The Vickery Law Firm, and Gary D. McCallister of Gary D. McCallister & Associates LLC.

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