Defective Drug Claims and the Learned Intermediary Doctrine in Watts v. Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp., 236 Ariz. 511 (App. Div. 1, 2015).

The Arizona Court of Appeals recently found some common sense when it abandoned the antiquated “learned intermediary doctrine” in a drug injury case brought by plaintiff Amanda Watts, who had suffered severe adverse health effects as a result of the acne drug Solodyn.  Ms. Watts brought a product liability (defective product) claim against the manufacturer of the drug for failing to properly warn her about the known dangers of prolonged use of the drug.  In the initial stages of the litigation, the drug’s manufacturer successfully convinced the trial court judge to dismiss the case based on the learned intermediary doctrine.

The learned intermediary doctrine, first adopted by the Arizona courts in 1978 provides that a manufacturer is not liable for failing to warn consumers of a product’s potential risks so long as it provides a proper warning to the specialized class of people (e.g. medical care providers) who are authorized to sell, install, or provide the product.  Dyer v. Best Pharmacal, 118 Ariz. 465 (App. 1978).  Thus, in the context of a defective drug claim, because a physician was presumed to act as an intermediary whose services were necessary before a consumer could receive the drug, the drug manufacture could absolve itself of liability by simply warning the physician (not the patient) of potential risks.  Id.  This principle effectively allowed drug manufactures to avoid liability if they could prove that they provided adequate information to the prescribing physician, leaving the prescribing physician solely responsible for the injuries to the consumer. Thankfully, in Watts, the Arizona Court of Appeals wisely concluded that the time for allowing drug manufacturers to skirt their liability had ended.  Specifically, the court held that “protecting a prescription drug manufacturer from possible liability for its own actions in distributing a product, simply because another participant (a physician) in the chain of distribution is also expected to act, is inconsistent with (Arizona’s comparative fault laws).  ¶ 34.

The court’s decision in Watts is a boon to consumers who have been injured as a result of inadequate or erroneous information provided by drug manufacturers to consumers.  If you or someone you know has been injured by a defective drug or other product, call attorney Brian Allen at (480) 461-5335 or contact him at for a free consultation to discuss your rights and options.

Please note, the principles discussed in this blog post are subject to ongoing judicial review and could change based on further court proceedings.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Defective Drug Claims and Learned Intermediary Doctrine, or any other personal injury, please feel free to contact Brian T. Allen at  480.461.5335,  log on to,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.