One of the most famous wrongful death lawsuits is the Hartman versus Pfizer Hollywood lawsuit which occurred in the early 1990s.
In 1998, Phil Hartman, a well-known comedian and Saturday Night Live actor, was shot and killed by his wife, Brynn, who then turned the gun on herself and took her own life. What appeared to be a murder-suicide case soon turned into a wrongful death lawsuit, after Brynn’s brother sued Pfizer Pharmaceuticals which manufactured the anti-depressant Zoloft.
According to Brynn’s brother, Brynn had been prescribed Zoloft due to chronic panic attacks, low self-esteem, and depression. His argument is that the drug, which was very popular at the time, drove her to insanity which then caused her to shoot her husband and herself after a late-night argument.
Autopsy results revealed that Brynn had alcohol and cocaine substances in her system in addition to the Zoloft, however, Pfizer settled the case out of court in a private agreement.
Despite this event having happened years ago, Pfizer is still the subject of various class action lawsuits to this day. Zoloft, also known as Sertraline, was approved by the FDA in 1991 to treat major depression, and later for OCD and panic attacks. Suicidal behavior and aggression are two well-known side-effects of the drug; however, the FDA had not yet included a black label warning about the side-effects at the time of the tragedy.
Additionally, Zoloft has been attributed as the cause of many deaths with multiple lawsuits being filed against Pfizer because of the drug. The most common allegations against Zoloft include that Pfizer failed to warn professionals and the public against Zoloft’s side-effects possibly causing birth defects and violent behavior (including suicide).
The number of cases against Pfizer has been so profound that the company settled 2.3 Billion dollars with the United States government in 2009, for their unlawful behavior including:
- Failing to document Zoloft’s serious side-effects
- Medical fraud
As the abovementioned lawsuit shows, wrongful death doesn’t only occur as a result of medical negligence from a medical practitioner; it can also result from the medical negligence of pharmaceutical companies and the medications that they produce.
Because of its diversity, a wrongful death lawsuit can be quite complex, which is why it is best that you consult with a qualified medical malpractice attorney if you wish to open a case. They will be able to go through your case and establish whether you have a valid claim or not.
Additionally, the elements of a wrongful death lawsuit differ depending on which state you live in; if you reside in NYC then you should contact a qualified NYC medical malpractice lawyer who is familiar with NYC medical malpractice law.
As your NYC medical malpractice lawyer will explain to you, your wrongful death case needs to meet the following criteria in order to be valid:
- There has a been a death of a human being
- This death has been caused by a healthcare professional’s, or a healthcare entity’s, negligence
- You and/or your family members are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death
- A personal representative can be appointed for the decedent's estate
If you believe that a family member or someone close to you may have experienced a wrongful death, please contact the medical malpractice lawyers of Rosenburg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff LLP in NYC today and speak to one of our medical malpractice attorneys.
When you are ready to talk, we are ready to listen. Call 1-866-516-5887 for a free, confidential consultation.