Humira Drug Trial Results in 2.2 Million Cook County Jury Verdict; Tietz v. Abbott Laboratories, et al.

   Delores Tietz of North Dakota was prescribed Humira for her rheumatoid arthritis.  The medicine is made by Abbott Laboratories of Abbott Park, Ill.  The rheumatologist prescribed the drug to be administered by way of subcutaneous injections. Humira is a medication that is designed to suppress the immune system and prevent inflammatory responses in the joints and tissues. It also is designed to ease pain for people afflicted with arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease.

Delores received the Humira injections every two weeks for several months. However, in the spring of 2010, she began to experience chest pains, fever and tiredness.

On May 4, 2010, Delores, 64 and retired, went to the emergency room at a Bismarck, N.D., hospital. She returned to the hospital on May 7, 2010 and was admitted with dehydration, fever, weakness and tiredness. She also had difficulty standing. The doctors at the hospital did not diagnose her condition for nearly two weeks.

After a bone marrow biopsy on May 19, 2010, it was discovered that she had developed disseminated histoplasmosis, a severe fungal infection caused by exposure to a fungus or mold.  Even with anti-fungal medication, Delores suffered from multi-system organ failure and respiratory failure, which required intubation and a mechanical ventilator.  Her condition finally resulted in her falling into a coma, and she was moved to the intensive care unit.

Eventually Delores was taken off the ventilator, but remained in the hospital until July 23, 2010. Although she underwent rehabilitation at another facility, she subsequently died on March 20, 2013 from a heart attack, which was not related to the histoplasmosis.

The plaintiffs — the family of Delores — maintained that Abbott was negligent in choosing not to provide timely and adequate warnings for the use of Humira. It also was claimed that Abbott chose not to warn doctors who treated patients, but did not know that Humira could cause fungal infections. Patients who were taking Humira were under an increased risk for fungal infections, including disseminated histoplasmosis. It was also argued that the fungal infection often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed in time to treat life-threatening infections.

Part of the Tietz family case was the fact that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert in September 2008 to all manufacturers of TNF (tumor necrosis factor) blockers, including Abbott Laboratories, about the risks of unrecognized drug-induced histoplasmosis. Abbott failed to alert treating physicians of this danger until May 17, 2002, years after Abbott first became aware of the danger in 2005. This was 20 months after the FDA alert and 10 days after Mrs. Tietz was hospitalized.

Abbott, on the other hand, argued that adequate warnings for Humira were given to physicians to prescribe the medication by labeling and other methods. Abbott also maintained that the warnings to the prescribing doctors were a duty met by Abbott to warn about the dangers of the use of the drug and that the medication labels were adequate. Abbott denied that the product — Humira — was a dangerous and defective product or that it was negligent in its warnings to physicians. Abbott also maintained that the sole proximate cause of Delores’s condition was the treating physicians’ delay in diagnosing her ailments, her exposure to a chicken coop at her farm prior to becoming infected and that she had other pre-existing conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and obesity.

The attorneys for the family of the estate of Delores Teitz were Arnold Anderson Vickery, Jim Perdue Jr., Fred H. Shepherd and Gary D. McCallister.

The jury’s verdict of $2,244,063 was made up of the following damages:

$1,944,063 to the estate of Delores Teitz;

  • $294,063 for medical expenses;
  • $800,000 for pain and suffering;
  • $650,000 for loss of normal life;
  • $200,000 for disfigurement.

The jury also awarded $300,000 to Milton Teitz, the husband of Delores, in the amount of $250,000 of loss of consortium/society/companionship; and $50,000 for loss of household services.

Tietz v. AbbVie, Inc., No. 12 L 2715 (Cook County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling pharmaceutical product defect cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a pharmaceutical product for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Lake Bluff, Chicago (Bucktown), Chicago (Bronzeville), Chicago (East Village), Chicago (Humboldt Park), Chicago (Little Italy), Berwyn, Alsip, Downers Grove, Gurnee, Joliet, Aurora, Lisle, McHenry, Naperville and Oak Forest, Ill.

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