A federal judge presiding over a suit by a woman in the allegedly drug-induced shooting death of her mother wants the Utah Supreme Court to rule on whether state statutes allow exceptions to its products liability law.
U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene asked in a certification order that the Utah Supreme Court rule on the question before trial begins in the case involving Ilo Grundberg, scheduled for April 29.Grundberg is suing Upjohn Co. for $21 million, claiming its sleeping medication Halcion, a brand name for triazolam, is defective because of its tendency to cause "intoxication."
Grundberg, 59, said she took Halcion before shooting Mildred Coats eight times in the head June 19, 1988, in their Hurricane mobile home. A 5th District judge dismissed charges against Grundberg last year after determining she was under the influence of the drug at the time of the incident.
Greene wants to know if Utah has adopted an "unavoidable unsafe products" exception to strict products liability.
The exception holds that some products, such as vaccine for rabies treatment, leads to very serious and damaging consequences, but, because the disease leads to a "dreadful death," both the marketing and use of the drug is justified.
"The unavoidable unsafe element . . . is that the product in question is made in the safest possible manner and that its benefits outweigh its inherent risks," Greene said.
Upjohn "does not argue that factual disputes exist with regard to the unavoidable unsafe requirement," said Greene, "rather Upjohn takes the position that Halcion, like all prescription drugs, satisfied (this prerequisite) as a matter of law."