Widow sues doctors, drug makers over husband's suicide on
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: March 29, 2007)
The widow of a heavily medicated man who jumped off the
Tappan Zee Bridge has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the
doctors and pharmaceutical companies she blames for her husband's suicide.
Fidel Zapata, 50, of White Plains was prescribed a
powerful cocktail of drugs - including an anti-depressant that warns of a
possible suicide risk in children - in the weeks leading up to his February
2005 death, his widow, Frances Cabanillas, claims in the complaint filed
"I believe if they did not give him all kinds of
medications, he would still be alive today," Cabanillas said.
She said the problems stem from a car crash he had in
Greenburgh in November 2004. Zapata sought treatment after developing neck,
chest and head pains, and doctors at first recommended over-the-counter
painkillers. But his symptoms persisted and he began to develop new
problems, including insomnia, anxiety, breathing troubles, numbness to the
side of his face and sweaty hands and feet, according to legal papers.
Zapata saw various doctors - including ones at White
Plains Hospital Center and the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla - who
prescribed everything from the anti-inflammatory drug Naproxen to the
sedative Valium. He was also given Lexapro, one of a class of
anti-depressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs,
that have been the target of numerous lawsuits alleging they cause suicidal
But his condition actually got worse, his widow said. He
started to experience blood and a grinding sound in his ear and numbness
around his nose, she said. On Feb. 7, she said, doctors prescribed him
Risperdol and Paxil, another SSRI that warns of a suicide risk in children.
That was three days before Zapata, while working for a
carpet company in Scarsdale, stopped his cargo van at midspan on the bridge,
stepped over the side railing and dropped 150 feet into the frigid waters.
Zapata's widow, through her lawyer Ernest Arbizo, filed
the lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. She is seeking $1
million for direct losses, $1 million for mental anguish and "further relief
as this court deems proper and just."
The suit targets the hospitals, along with various doctors
and drug manufacturers, including GlaxoSmithKline, Forest Pharmaceuticals,
Forest Laboratories, Myland Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA.
"Obviously, some of them are probably more responsible
than others, but if I left anyone off, I could miss someone," Arbizo said.
"Paxil in particular is what I'm interested in. Paxil had an integral part
of what the decedent faced."
He said the doctors share responsibility because they
didn't treat him properly, "overprescribed" the drugs and failed to
coordinate with each other.
"They were just throwing things at him without really
analyzing what he was taking," Arbizo said. "That's what caused him to
The Journal News contacted several of the agencies being
sued, but all refused to comment about the lawsuit.
"It's the policy of our hospital not to comment on
cases involving active litigation," said Melissa Weisstuch, vice president
of community relations at White Plains Hospital Center.
Lexapro Lawsuit Filed
AKRON, Ohio, July 26 -- A lawsuit has been filed against
Forest Laboratories involving the deaths of two brothers taking the drug
The lawsuit was filed by Mark and Lucy Bibbee, who claim
Lexapro caused their sons to commit suicide 17 months apart.
David Bibbee took his own life Feb. 23, 2003. David was
being treated for "bipolar disorder."
Brian Bibbee took his own life July 24, 2004. Brian was
being treated for "attention deficit disorder."
David and Brian were both taking Lexapro which has been
shown to be associated with suicide.
The lawsuit claims Forest knew of the increased suicide
risk, yet failed to conduct tests to see how often the problem developed and
also failed to properly issue warnings.