Ambien maker wants judge to dismiss suit in Hard Rock exec's death

The company that makes the sleeping pill Ambien wants a federal judge to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit filed by relatives of Hard Rock Hotel executive Randy Kwasniewski, who committed suicide in March 2010.

Instead of filing an answer to the complaint, the manufacturer -- sanofi-aventis U.S. -- filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss it.

"To prevail, plaintiffs must establish that Ambien caused Mr. Kwasniewski's death," according to the motion. "However, plaintiffs have failed to plead sufficient facts to plausibly suggest that Mr. Kwasniewski's death was caused by Ambien."

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 29 in Clark County District Court, alleges sanofi-aventis knew Ambien was defective "and had the propensity to cause severe injury, including death."

Sanofi-aventis, a limited liability company based in Delaware, recently removed the case from state court and transferred it to federal court in Las Vegas. It is assigned to U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro.

"There are many possible explanations for Mr. Kwasniewski's death that are unrelated to Ambien," according to the motion to dismiss. "Based on the allegations in the complaint, sanofi-aventis is left to guess and speculate at the nature of Mr. Kwasniewski's death and how Ambien purportedly caused his death."

The company is represented by Las Vegas attorneys Steve Morris and Joni Jamison, both of Morris Law Group.

Unbeknownst to Kwasniewski, according to the lawsuit, "Ambien may produce suicidal thoughts, ideations, strange bizarre behaviors and actions."

"Defendant was well-aware of numerous adverse reactions to Ambien which resulted in suicide or suicidal ideation," according to the document, which alleged sanofi-aventis "deliberately underwarned about the possible reactions to Ambien."

According to the lawsuit, a Nevada physician prescribed the drug for Kwasniewski, "and he used it as prescribed."

After taking Ambien around March 8, 2010, Kwasniewski "developed symptoms and ultimately died on March 9, 2010 as a result of the side effects of Ambien."

Kwasniewski, 56, was found dead in his Summerlin home on March 9, 2010. He died of a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the Clark County coroner's office reported.

His widow, Jennifer, and two children, Taylor and Dylan, filed the lawsuit. They are represented by Las Vegas attorneys Eckley Keach and Robert Murdock.

Other defendants named in the lawsuit are Nadine Leone, a marriage and family therapist, and Behavioral Healthcare Options, a Nevada company.

The lawsuit alleged Leone, an agent of Behavioral Healthcare Options, saw Kwasniewski as a patient around March 4, 2010, and was aware that he had been prescribed Ambien. According to the complaint, Leone failed to warn Kwasniewski about the possible mental and emotional effects of taking the drug.

According to the motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs "never even identify who the prescribing physician was."

Serious side effects of Ambien, according to a medication guide that appears on the sanofi-aventis website, include abnormal thoughts and behavior.

"Symptoms include more outgoing or aggressive behavior than normal, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, worsening of depression, and suicidal thoughts or actions," the guide states.

Kwasniewski had been in his position as president and chief operating officer at the Hard Rock Hotel since New York-based boutique hotel operator Morgans Hotel Group bought the resort in February 2007.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at or 702-384-8710.