Sept. 27, 2016 – San Diego, CA — A few high-profile lawsuits may be consolidated into MDLs when the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation meets this week in Washington, D.C.
The MDL Panel is scheduled to meet for its 5th hearing of the year this Thursday, Sept. 29. The panel will decide whether to consolidate lawsuits involving some well-known pharmaceutical drugs, including the antipsychotic Abilify and breast cancer drug Taxotere, as well as popular consumer products, like Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder and Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup.
A state case involving the popular blood thinner Xarelto is also going before the MDL Panel, which will decide whether or not to bring the case on as a “tag-along” to the already established Xarelto MDL. Plaintiffs will argue against that move on Thursday.
The controversial birth control device Essure was originally included in Thursday’s schedule, as well, but plaintiffs withdrew their motion seeking centralization this past August.
Abilify is an antipsychotic drug used to treat some mental health disorders, like schizophrenia and depression. The drug has been shown to cause compulsive behaviors in a number of patients, including compulsive gambling and hypersexuality, prompting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue a safety warning regarding the drugs apparent risks.
Plaintiffs from an Abilify lawsuit filed in the District of Minnesota are seeking to consolidate a number of cases pending in at least a dozen districts nationwide. The lawsuits allege the makers of the antipsychotic drug, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Japan-based Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, failed to warn of the drug’s potential risks.
Both plaintiffs and defendants are seeking to consolidate in the Northern District of Florida under MDL No. 2734.
Taxotere is a chemotherapy drug used to treat certain types of breast cancer. The drug, made by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, has come under fire by women who say they lost their hair for good after taking the drug to treat their breast cancer.
Numerous lawsuits are pending in about 17 districts across the country, and plaintiffs from two separate suits are seeking to consolidate all of them in the Eastern District of Louisiana under MDL No. 2740.
Roundup is a weed killer used by consumers and agricultural workers alike. The weed killer, made from the herbicide glyphosate, has been shown to cause the blood cancer non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, or NHL, and a number of its subtypes.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as “probably cancer causing” and linked it specifically to NHL.
Plaintiffs are now suing the maker of Roundup, agrochemical giant Monsanto Company, alleging the weed killer caused their cancer. Two plaintiffs from separate suits are seeking to consolidate all federally filed cases into one MDL in the Southern District of Illinois under MDL No. 2741.
Talcum powder lawsuits pending in federal courts may be consolidated into MDL 2738, should the MDL Panel grant both parties their joint motion to transfer.
Plaintiff Tanashiska Lumas is seeking to consolidate the cases in the Southern District of Illinois, while defendant Johnson & Johnson hopes the MDL Panel will choose either the District of New Jersey or Oklahoma.
Plaintiffs in the talcum powder suits allege Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and Shower to Shower products caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Some medical evidence has shown a link between talc and ovarian cancer, however, state courts have handed down differing judgments in this regard.
A state court in St. Louis handed down two multi-million-dollar verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs this year, while another state court in New Jersey threw out two cases for lack of medical evidence linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer.
A third trial is currently underway in the same St. Louis court.
MDLs are often formed when similar claims are filed in different courts throughout the country. Only cases filed in federal courts are affected by consolidation; however, companies fighting lawsuits in state courts often file motions to remove them to federal court.
This happened in the talcum powder lawsuit that recently went to trial. Defendant Johnson & Johnson attempted to have the case, filed in Missouri state court, removed to federal court. The district judge ultimately sided with the plaintiffs, and the case was remanded back to state court.
MDLs cab be advantageous for both plaintiffs and defendants, however, because they bring multiple lawsuits alleging similar claims together under one roof. This means pre-trial discovery and evidence gathering can be done as one uniform group, reducing the costs of litigation.
Following the discovery phase, a handful of cases may be selected to be tried first. These bellwether trials are intended to best represent the MDL as a whole and are tried individually, typically before a jury.
The verdicts handed down in bellwether trials do not affect the remaining cases waiting to be tried; however, they can be used to guide settlement discussions between the two parties.
Plaintiffs in cases involving Abilify, Taxotere, Roundup and talcum powder will all be arguing for MDL consolidation this Thursday in front of the MDL Panel.