The Onglyza Product Cases, A165387 decided on April 19, 2023 by the First District Court of Appeal is a case to be aware of.  

The case involved 13 California state cases coordinated under a Judicial Council Coordination proceeding (JCCP) regarding the drug of Onglyza and Kombiglyze which contained the active ingredient saxagliptin a medicine for type 2 diabetes. Plaintiffs’ alleged that they were injured as the active ingredient can cause heart failure.  The trial court ordered the parties to conduct discovery in phases.  The first phase covered percipient and expert discovery on the issue of general causation, noting that the litigation would then proceed as to other issues only if plaintiffs were able to show that the defendant’s drugs caused the injuries alleged.  Following expert discovery, the defendants moved to exclude Plaintiffs’ causation expert, a Dr. Goyal.  Defendants’ claimed in a Daubert/Sargon hearing that Dr. Goyal was either unqualified to offer his proposed opinions, or that the basis of the opinions were incomplete and didn’t support causation.  

Defendants moved for Summary Judgment on the ground that, without any expert testimony on general causation, plaintiffs were unable to establish an essential element of their claims and defendants were therefore entitled to judgment.   Plaintiff moved to allow the designation of a replacement expert for Dr. Goyal, and to extend time to oppose the motion.  The trial court denied plaintiffs’ motions to extend the discovery deadlines allowing plaintiffs to augment their witness list and granted defendants’ motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff appealed.  

The Court of Appeal’s decision goes into great detail as to whether there was an abuse of discretion in excluding the expert which it found there wasn’t. However, it was the final paragraph of the decision that caught my eye which states:

“Lastly, we review for abuse of discretion the trial court’s denial of plaintiffs’ request to enlarge discovery deadlines in order to designate a new expert. (Johnson v. Alameda County Medical Center (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 521, 531.) We find none here, as plaintiffs were afforded ample time during the first phase of discovery to designate general causation experts and to conduct expert discovery. Plaintiffs designated Dr. Goyal as their only expert to opine that saxagliptin can cause heart failure and sought to identify a new expert only after Dr. Goyal was excluded. Although the court’s decision to exclude Dr. Goyal may have been unexpected to plaintiffs, they made the strategic decision to identify only one expert in this area, despite knowing how crucial it was to prevail on the issue of general causation. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that allowing plaintiffs to designate a new expert would prejudice defendants given the amount of time and resources needed to conduct additional expert discovery and likely another round of Daubert/Sargon briefing and hearings.”

This case is unique in that it was a phased trial and discovery involving both percipient and expert witnesses on the issue of causation.  The court also implies that substantial amount of time and effort had been expended by the parties and the court regarding the expert motions and re-litigating those issues because plaintiff put all his “eggs in Dr Goyal’s basket” was a tactical decision, making it reasonable to hold plaintiffs to their litigation decisions.  However, beware that a trial court may not limit this decision to only complex cases.