In 2010, Stewart Dolin, 52 years old and a co-chairman of Reed Smith’s corporate and securities group in Chicago left his office for lunch and proceeded to make his way to the nearby train station. As the train prepared for arrival, Dolin took a step in front of it, ending his life and leaving behind his wife and two children. While this was determined to be a suicide, there was a distinct variable that Dolin’s wife, Wendy, noted shortly after his death. According to her, six days prior to his untimely death, Dolin began taking a generic form of the anti-depressant “Paxil”. She accused GlaxcoSmithKline, the distributor of the drug, of concealing certain side effects of taking Paxil, one of those being suicidal thoughts. While the label does suggest suicidal behavior as a potential for people 24 and under, there is no mention of it occurring in older adults. When a plaintiff alleges that a drug manufacturer caused the death of a loved one, the type of lawsuit brought is called a wrongful death lawsuit.
King & Spalding and Dentons, the defense attorneys for GSK have denied any allegations that there was any wrong doing. The defense firms state that at the time that Mr. Dolin began taking the drug, there were no requirements from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to have any labeling regarding possible suicidal behavior in older adults. They also stated that Dolin did not in fact take the Brand name drug “Paxil” but instead took the generic form of it therefore Paxil should have no responsibility for Mr. Dolin’s death. Baum Hedlund Wisner, Wendy Dolin’s attorney, has pleaded with the judge to not make any pre-trial decisions regarding King & Spalding and Denton’s defenses but instead ask the court to give Ms. Dolin her day in court and let a jury decide if the drug giant should be held accountable.
Another interesting angle in this case is the fact that, according to research, the field in which Stewart Dolin worked is more prone to suicides — the suicide rate in the legal industry is six times higher than other professions. Because of this, Wendy Dolin has created a non-profit organization in her husband’s name called “Medication-Induced Suicide Education Foundation in Memory of Stewart Dolin.” She hopes to be able to raise awareness of certain drugs that could potentially have devastating side effects in order to prevent tragedies such as her husband’s from happening to anyone else. The trial against GlasxcoSmithKline is scheduled to begin September 19th, 2016.
In Georgia, the law provides a remedy to the surviving children and spouse of such a death victim — a wrongful death cause of action. In such an action, the family can recover, on behalf of their lost loved one, what that loved one lost, e.g., his or her lifetime income, the value of his or her services to the household and can recover the value of intangibles such as the loss of the love from a child, spouse, parents or siblings. If the victim also experiences pain and suffering from the injuries that ultimately leads to his death, this pre-death pain and suffering can also be awarded in what is called a survival action.