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Drug lawsuit in Jacksonville murder-suicide headed back to Calhoun court

A Calhoun County man is suing the makers of the antidepressant Lexapro, claiming the drug played a role in a 2015 murder-suicide in Jacksonville — and local courts may soon make a decision on removing at least one drugmaker from the case. 

Kevin J. Feheley of Jacksonville sued drugmaker Forest Laboratories in Calhoun County Circuit Court in 2017, alleging the drug Lexapro played a role in the death of his ex-wife, Sheila Clay Joubran. 

Joubran and her husband Elias Fozi Joubran were found dead of gunshot wounds in their home on Wildwood Lane in Jacksonville in December 2015. Police said Elias Joubran shot Sheila Joubran, then turned the gun on himself. The two were in the middle of a divorce at the time of the killing, police said. 

Feheley sued on behalf of his son, who is also Sheila Joubran’s only survivor, according to court documents. In the suit, Fehely’s lawyers claims Joubran was taking Lexapro at the time of the shooting, something the plaintiffs claim was a contributing factor in the killing.

“Forest has been aware of an increased risk of the danger of suicide and other violence from its drug as well as of collateral violence to others,” Feheley’s lawyers argued in a 2017 motion.

Forest is the maker of the brand-name version of the drug. In 2010 the company paid $313 million after pleading guilty to federal charges of improperly promoting some of its drugs, according to the Department of Justice. Some of the charges against the company involved the payment of kickbacks to induce doctors to prescribe Lexapro, according to the Justice Department. 

The suit has since been amended to include another pharmaceutical company, Camber Pharmaceutical. 

The case has been working its way through the court system for more than two years, with little fanfare.

Calhoun County courts referred the case to the federal courts in 2017, citing jurisdictional issues. A federal judge returned the case to the county’s jurisdiction. Forest sought to be removed from the suit in 2017, claiming the drug used by Joubran was not its drug but instead a generic version.

“Forest did not manufacture the product allegedly ingested by Joubran,” the company’s lawyers wrote in a court motion. “Accordingly, Forest may not be held liable for any of the alleged injuries or damages in this lawsuit.”

Earlier this year, the company asked for a summary judgment — essentially a decision before the case goes to trial — in its part of the case. Calhoun County courts denied that motion, and Forest filed an appeal. An Alabama Supreme Court decision in October reversed that motion and sent the case back to local courts. 

Attempts to reach lawyers for Feheley were unsuccessful Monday, as were efforts to reach lawyers for Forest. 

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.