v SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals
In February 1998, Donald
Schell, a 60 year old man, living in Gillette, Wyoming, became withdrawn
and began to complain to his wife, Rita, that he had difficulty
sleeping. Schell had first had nervous problems in the mid-1980s
and between then and 1998 was to have approximately five nervous
episodes, centered on work stressors or bereavements. Don and Rita
appeared to most of those who knew them to be a close couple who
were married for 37 years. They had two children, Michael and Deborah.
Deborah married Tim Tobin in 1992 and in 1997 she gave birth to
the Schellís first grandchild, Alyssa. Deborah and Alyssa, now 9
months old, came down from Billings Montana to stay for a few days
with Don and Rita in February 1998.
Donís means of handling
his nerves was to take time off work, as he could easily get someone
to deputize for him. He went for walks with his wife, spent time
talking with friends or Tim if he was around, in addition to taking
care of his diet. Ever since he had had a good exposure to a Dr
Suhaney in 1990, if he remained low after a week or two, either
Rita or Don himself would suggest going along to see a doctor. Suhaney
had first put Schell on Prozac and noted that it made him tense,
anxious and jittery, despite the fact that he was on several antidotes
such as Inderal, Ativan and Desyrel. Suhaney stopped Prozac and
put Don Schell on imipramine to which he responded rapidly[i]. What
Suhaney didnít know was that Schell may have even been hallucinating
while on Prozac. Having responded to imipramine in 1990, in two
further brief episodes in the 1990s, Schell was put on tricyclics
and responded rapidly.
In February of 1998,
when he began to complain about his sleep, Don and Rita went to
see a primary care physician, Dr Patel. Dr Patel did a thorough
examination, which included administering rating scales that indicated
Schellís main problem was poor sleep and that he felt hopeful about
the future and thought well of himself. Patel diagnosed an anxiety
state and, unaware of the significance of a prior adverse response
to Prozac, put Don Schell on Paxil, without any covering antidotes.
Forty-eight hours later Schell put three bullets from two different
guns through Ritaís head, as well as through Deborahís head and
through Alyssaís head before shooting himself through the head.
After more than a year
in a mental wilderness, Tim Tobin sought out Andy Vickery and took
an action for wrongful death against SmithKline Beecham, who were
then in the process of becoming Glaxo-SmithKline, the worlds largest
Included here is the
trial transcript as well as the Daubert motions before and after
the trial aimed at disqualifying the plaintiffs expert witness.
Also available are the depositions of the family members and experts
in this case.