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Tobin 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In February 1998, Donald Schell, a 60 year old man, living in Gillette, Wyoming, became withdrawn and began to complain to his wife, Rita, that he had difficulty sleeping.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 pharmaceutical company.

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.