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Connecticut Supreme Court Affirms New Trial Order in Birth Control Blood Clots Case – Curran v. Kroll

By March 22, 2012July 18th, 2019Dangerous Drugs

I’ve written here numerous times as a dangerous drug lawyer about the risk of lfe-threatening blood clots posed by birth control pills. While newer-generation pills like Yaz and Yasmin pose a more serious risk and have gotten much of the media attention, this is a well known risk of any hormonal birth control and goes up with smoking, age and the amount of hormones in the pills. So I was very interested to see a case out of Connecticut in which one woman’s surviving family argued that her doctors failed to adequately warn her about the risk of blood clots from taking the hormonal birth control pill Desogen (ethyl estradiol and desogestrel). Leeann Curran died at age 45, one month after starting the pills to control heavy and irregular periods. John Curran, her husband, and Ryan Curran, her son, sued her doctor and the Medical Center of Northeast Connecticut for failure to warn, in Curran v. Kroll et al..
Leeann Curran went to defendant Sherry Kroll, her primary care doctor, complaining of painful, irregular and heavy periods, plus symptoms of menopause. The prescription for Desogen was filled with a generic version in early May, and by the end of the month, Curran was telling her mother she felt terrible and blamed the pills, but that Kroll had advised her to continue taking them. On June 6, Curran had to leave a meeting because of considerable leg pain; on June 7, she left work early for the same reason, and needed help from her husband to get downstairs to sleep with her leg elevated. The next morning at 6 a.m., the couple’s granddaughter, whom they were babysitting, woke the husband to tell him Curran had fallen in the bathroom and hit her head. She told him she couldn’t breach and he called an ambulance. Unfortunately, she died on her way to the hospital, of two pulmonary emboli caused by a deep-vein blood clot.
Curran’s estate and family sued Kroll and the medical center where she worked, alleging failure to warn of the risk of deep vein thrombosis. The trial court ultimately granted a directed verdict to the defendants, finding that no evidence presented supported a failure to warn claim. The plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals, which reversed and remanded, finding a reasonable jury could disagree. The defendants then appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, arguing that the appeals court’s verdict was based on speculation and grounds not raised in trial court.
The Connecticut Supreme Court ultimately upheld the appeals court, agreeing that a reasonable jury could find a failure to warn. To prove this, plaintiffs must show that Kroll didn’t warn Curran about symptoms and risks of the birth control that would have given her a reason to seek treatment. The high court noted that Kroll’s testimony on what warnings she gave Curran was equivocal, without a clear statement that she had warned Curran of the risk of blood clots. (Unhelpfully, the medical records had been lost.) The record shows that Curran told her husband and her mother that she had no idea what was causing the leg pain, and told her mother she’d called Kroll to say she felt worse in general, without receiving advice about blood clots. This was enough to support a reasonable jury’s inference that Curran was actively willing to seek treatment but genuinely didn’t know what was causing her symptoms, the court said, though it was not overwhelming. It agreed with the defendants that some of the issues they raised had been waived by omission at trial, but said it was irrelevant in light of the other evidence.
As a pharmaceutical injury attorney, I agree that a jury should have the right to decide this case, instead of having it ended early by the trial court’s decision. Reading between the lines, it looks like the trial court sympathized with the idea that Curran should have sought medical treatment once the leg pain became clear. It’s certainly true that medical intervention could have helped — deep vein thrombosis is considered a serious medical problem precisely because doctors have a limited time to intervene before the clot can travel to the heart a and lungs. However, if Curran was never given the tools she needed to realize the condition was more than a pulled muscle, she could hardly have been expected to do so. That’s the heart of this dispute. As a pharmaceutical liability lawyer, I generally favor allowing a jury to decide issues like these, particularly when they have already taken the trouble of hearing the entire trial.

If your family has suffered a serious injury or a death because of a dangerous or defective prescription drug, you have the right to hold the drug company legally liable for failure to warn you of the risks. To tell us your story and learn more about your rights, call Carey, Danis & Lowe today for a free consultation at 1-877-678-3400 or send us an email.
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