Health care workers not liable in Zoloft suicide case

By John O'Brien | May 15, 2012

ORLANDO, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - A health care facility and its workers are not at fault for the suicide of a man who was prescribed the anti-depressant Zoloft.

Defendants Sarah Army, Dr. Aparna Hernandez and Southwest Internal Medicine Specialists recently obtained a defense verdict in a trial that began in April, according to Courtroom View Network. A first trial in 2010 ended in a mistrial.

The defendants were granted a motion to dismiss in 2007 when the case was in federal court, but the plaintiff amended the complaint and asked for the case to be remanded to state court, which it was.

Gary Torrence was a hotel general manager for the Orlando Embassy Suites and had just been transferred to a prestigious new hotel in Washington, D.C., when he committed suicide in 2005. He was prescribed Zoloft for insomnia.

A federal judge wrote that the plaintiff's arguments "arise from... Defendants' choice of Zoloft as a treatment modality for Mr. Torrence's insomnia. This is the quintessential example of the use of a health care provider's medical judgment, skill or expertise."

Pfizer, the maker of the drug, was no longer a defendant in the case. The first mistrial occurred when 9th Judicial Circuit Judge Julie O'Kane ruled the defense showed the jury prejudicial evidence.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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