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Evidence & Causation

Brief - When is the PDR hearsay? - Spensieri v. Lasky, 94 N.Y.2d 231 (N.Y. 1999)

While Plaintiff was taking birth control pills, she had irregular menstrual bleeding and clotting.  Defendant increased the estrogen she was taking, and further increased it when the problem recurred.  Within a month of starting the increased dose, plaintiff, 29 years old, suffered a major stroke and was rendered her quadriplegic and unable to speak.  In Martin v. Hacker, 628 N.E.2d 1308 (N.Y. 1993) New York found that the Physician's Desk Reference (PDR) could be admitted as evidence of the warnings that drug companies provide to physicians. Relying on this, plaintiff in the instant case wanted the court to admit PRR warnings and prescribing information as establishing the standard of care for prescribing estrogen. The trial judge refused and the jury found for defendant.  The appeals court ruled that plaintiff's expert witness might rely on the PDR in forming his opinion, and might tell the court that the PDR was an important source of prescribing information for physicians, but plaintiff could not introduce the PDR on its own as a standard of practice.  The court distinguished the use of the PDR as evidence in Martin v. Hacker because that case dealt with the learned intermediary defense in which the PRD was not evidence of standard of care but of whether the drug company had provided certain warnings to physicians.

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