On October 1, 2015, two very different groups of lawyers gathered together at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
In Victory For Plaintiffs, Dispute Over Transfer Location Ends
On one side stood representatives for the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. The company manufactures the anti-nausea drug Zofran. Multiple studies, and dozens of families, have said the prescription increases the risk for major birth defects. Opposing Glaxo’s counsel was a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys, lawyers representing more than 60 parents who claim Zofran caused their children to develop heart defects and cleft palate.
But the matter in dispute was not whether or not Zofran causes birth defects, or whether Glaxo should be held liable for the damage Zofran may have caused. These rivals had met to argue the transfer of Zofran lawsuits.
Federal Panel Sends Lawsuits To Massachusetts
Fortunately, both sides agreed on one crucial fact: the currently-filed claims are similar enough in their allegations to warrant consolidation. But where the suits should be sent was a different matter. Glaxo said Pennsylvania was the best choice, close to the company’s headquarters in Philadelphia. Wary of giving the Defendant a “home court advantage,” Plaintiffs suggested a number of alternatives, including Massachusetts.
Well, the order is in and every Zofran lawsuit filed in a Federal Court will soon be on its way to Boston. The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML) announced that Judge F. Dennis Saylor will preside over the coordinated pretrial proceedings.
The JPML’s decision was made public in a Transfer Order released on October 13, 2015.
What Does Consolidation Mean?
In Boston, the complicated legal procedures required before a lawsuit proceeds to trial will be conducted in common. But this isn’t a class action, and the lawsuits will remain individual. Each family will continue to control their claim’s progress.
The Zofran lawsuits are now part of a Multi-District Litigation, or MDL. MDL recognizes that all of the complaints hold a number of questions in common, like whether or not Zofran causes birth defects.
Despite the many differences between each lawsuit, they all rest on answers to these shared questions. In an MDL, all of the plaintiffs will be able to gather evidence and expert testimony together. Then it’s up to each family to decide on the next step, for themselves.
Does This Mean No One Else Can File A Lawsuit?
Not at all.
In fact, the process of filing a claim may become easier. In many MDLs, a “short-form” complaint is created, speeding up the task of bringing new lawsuits against a defendant.
The right of new families to join the litigation has not been restricted in any way. Our attorneys continue to offer free consultations, and would be happy to address your concerns personally.
Out of all the locations suggested for transfer, Massachusetts was a logical choice from the start. Several major developments that led parents to file lawsuits began in Boston, and five Zofran claims are already filed there.
For one, the very first study to link the anti-nausea drug to a birth defect, cleft palate, drew its data from a birth defect monitoring program at Boston University.
Just as crucial, when the US Department of Justice began investigating GlaxoSmithKline’s business practices, it relied on evidence gathered in four whistle-blower lawsuits filed in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Ultimately, the government used that evidence to charge the company for illegally promoting Zofran as a morning sickness treatment.
You can read more about the federal case’s roots in Boston here.