Pfizer Accused of "Blatant Hypocrisy" Over Alleged Witness Tampering in Neurontin Case

Last Updated Sep 30, 2009 2:18 PM EDT

Plaintiffs in the Neurontin litigation have accused Pfizer of "blatant hypocrisy" for insisting that witnesses should not contact each other in the case because Pfizer once sent an ex-CIA agent to the home of a witness in a separate Neurontin case. The duelling claims come in a case regarding the death of Hartley Shearer, a Massachusetts man whose family claims he killed himself after taking the drug. Previously, Pfizer filed a motion complaining that plaintiffs' expert witness Dr. David Egilman improperly sent a bundle of "cherry-picked" Neurontin documents to Shearer's doctor.

The Shearer family's lawyers have taken the opportunity to remind Pfizer that in a separate case, a witness was "terrifed" by an agent that Pfizer sent to visit a witness's house:

Defendants throw stones from their own glass house. Recently, in Bulger v. Pfizer Inc., 1:07-cv-11425-PBS, Defendants employed a private investigator to purportedly visit with Dr. David Franklin only one day before Dr. Franklin was scheduled to testify at trial regarding Defendants' illegal, off-label marketing activities. Dr. Franklin and his family were terrified:

THE COURT: Let me just tell you what he reported to Mr. Alba. Whatever that guy, whoever he was and whatever he said, I think Dr. Franklin is terrified, and, more importantly, I think his daughter is terrified, and we have a thousand more cases.

The Shearer lawyers also quote Pfizer lawyer Mark Cheffo explaining that witnesses are often contacted without lawyers' permission:
"Parties in litigation often use investigators to serve papers, interview nonparty witnesses, or to determine availability." The American Lawyer, at law.com, 8/10/09 (emphasis added)
The filing also defends the reputation of Egilman, whom Pfizer asserted was a "discredited, twice-sanctioned professional witness":
Dr. Egilman was never sanctioned by Judge Weinstein, and on all issues where Dr. Egilman had standing to appeal in the Ballenger case, the appellate court reversed the sanction.
The Shearers conclude that Pfizer's motion is "a misrepresentation of the facts and blatant hypocrisy."