Case details

Family claimed decedent not warned of Paxil side effects





Result type

Not present

akatia, death, loss of parental guidance, loss of services, loss of society
In March of 2007, plaintiffs’ decedent Bruce Rivera, 50, a technical instructor for Ricoh Corp., was prescribed the anti-depressant drug Paxil by Dr. Ardalan Babaknia, his physician. Subsequently, on March 16, 2007, four days after he allegedly started taking the Paxil, Rivera committed suicide at his residence in Huntington Beach. Mr. Rivera’s wife, Evelyn Rivera, and his children, minor Beau Rivera, Corryn Rivera, Jenna Rivera and Steven Rivera, all sued Babaknia; the pharmacy in Fountain Valley that filled the prescription, Costco Wholesale Corp.; and the provider of the written information used in the “Patient Counseling Information Form” at Costco’s pharmacy. They alleged that Babaknia was failed to properly warn of the drug’s side effects, failed to properly monitor his patient, and failed to properly treat his patient. They alleged that these failures constituted medical malpractice. Bruce Rivera’s family also alleged that Costco was negligent for failing to warn of Paxil’s side effects, and that First Databank was negligent for providing false and misleading written information used in the “Patient Counseling Information Form” provided to Bruce Rivera by the Costco pharmacy. First Databank was ultimately dismissed on an anti-Slapp motion. Bruce Rivera’s wife claimed that her husband experienced a radical change in mood and behavior, including agitation, pacing, anxiety and insomnia, after he started taking Paxil. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that the drug caused Rivera to develop the side effect of akathisia, a highly agitated sense of inner restlessness, which caused his suicide. Counsel argued that Babaknia failed to warn of the side effects or suicide risk of Paxil, failed to monitor Rivera after starting him on the medication, and failed to respond to phone calls from Rivera’s wife about the side effects her husband experienced immediately before his suicide. Plaintiffs’ counsel also contended that Costco failed to provide written and oral suicide-warning information about Paxil. Counsel argued that Costco was negligent per se by failing to provide Rivera with an FDA-mandated “Medication Guide” regarding suicide risks when the prescription was filled, and failed to comply with California state law requiring an oral consultation from a pharmacist regarding adverse effects of newly prescribed medications. Babaknia admitted that no suicide warnings were provided regarding Paxil, but claimed that the standard of care did not require him to give such warnings because there was no evidence of an increased risk of suicidal thoughts/acts for a person in the decedent’s age group, a male in his 50s. Costco contended that its pharmacy provided Rivera with all required warnings. It also contended that warning stickers, including a suicide warning, had been removed from Rivera’s Paxil bottle after it was dispensed by the pharmacy. In addition, both Babaknia and Costco contended that Rivera’s suicide resulted from his undiagnosed health problem, and not from the Paxil., Bruce Rivera committed suicide at his residence in Huntington Beach, on March 16, 2007, four days after he allegedly started taking Paxil. He was 50. Rivera was survived by his wife, three adult children and one minor child. Rivera’s family sought recovery of wrongful death damages, including loss of domestic services, funeral and burial expenses, and loss of society, comfort and companionship. They also sought recovery of $1.4 million for their loss of financial support. Thus, plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award Rivera’s family $3.25 million in total damages.
Superior Court of Orange County, Orange, CA

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