1983 DES Case: Plummer v. Abbott Laboratories


” This is a products liability action initiated by 51 individual plaintiffs against 7 manufacturers of the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES). Jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Of the original plaintiffs, 48 remain in the case; 21 are women who, during their respective pregnancies, took DES on the advice of their physicians. These women, in the fourth amended complaint, complain of emotional distress arising out of increased fear of contracting cancer and out of heightened concern for the current or future medical problems of their respective daughters.

After extensive discovery, all defendants now seek summary judgment against 16 of the 21 aforementioned women. The gravamen of the defendants’ motion is that Rhode Island does not and would not recognize a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional harm in the absence of physical manifestations of such distress. The targeted plaintiffs have objected. The matter has been fulsomely briefed; and at a chambers conference held on May 9, 1983, all parties waived oral argument and declined the court’s invitation to consider certification of the questions raised to the state supreme court.

Plummer v. Abbott Laboratories, U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, law.justia, 568 F. Supp. 920, July 1, 1983.

The facts are not in dispute and can be summarized succinctly. The targeted plaintiffs ingested DES during their respective pregnancies; they do not contend, however, that they have sustained any physical harm or that they have manifested physical sequelae of any emotional distress.

The targeted plaintiffs claim as injuries only the following:

  • increased risk of contracting cancer and concomitant mental strain as a side effect of trepidation associated therewith;
  • and/or mental distress ancillary to fear and concern as to their children’s current and possible future medical problems.

This court, sitting in diversity jurisdiction, must determine whether the enumerated facts combine to state a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress under Rhode Island law.” …

… read the full paper Plummer v. Abbott Laboratories, 568 F. Supp. 920 on Justicia US Law.

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