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MacDonald v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
475 N.E.2d 65 (Mass. 1985)



Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp. (Ortho) (defendant) manufactured birth control pills. In September 1973, MacDonald (plaintiff) received a prescription from her gynecologist for Ortho-Nuvum birth control pills, manufactured by Ortho. The pill packaging contained a warning that birth control pills may cause side effects, and the most common side effect is abnormal blood clotting which can be fatal. MacDonald also obtained a booklet from her gynecologist discussing the risk of blood clots from using the pills. MacDonald’s physician received warning of the possibility of other side effects, including stroke, from using the pills. However, none of the literature provided to MacDonald mentioned the risk of “stroke” from using the pills. After using the pills for three years, MacDonald suffered a stroke which damaged her brain and left her permanently disabled. She and her husband brought suit against Ortho, where she testified that if she had known of the risk of stroke, she would not have used the pills. MacDonald obtained a jury verdict in her favor. The trial judge granted Ortho judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and MacDonald appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Abrams, J.)

Dissent (O’Connor, J.)

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