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From Products Liability Law Daily, August 9, 2013

Multidistrict panel centralizes two drug-related litigations

By Susan Lasser, J.D.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has centralized two drug-related litigations. The first involves actions arising out of eye injuries allegedly caused by pharmaceutical products compounded by Franck’s Lab, Inc., and Franck’s Pharmacy, Inc. (Franck’s) (In re: Franck’s Lab, Inc., Products Liability Litigation, August 7, 2013, Heyburn II, J.). The second relates to the antidepressant drug, Effexor, which includes allegations that the drug results in birth defects in children whose mothers had taken the drug (In re: Effexor (Venlafaxine Hydrochloride) Products Liability Litigation, August 6, 2013, Heyburn II, J.).

In re: Franck’s Lab, Inc., Products Liability Litigation. The litigation relating to products compounded by Franck’s has been centralized in the Eastern District of Louisiana by the panel, which found that the Louisiana district was more conveniently located to Florida, where the events and witnesses were located. Currently, the matter consists of 21 actions pending in six districts, as listed on two schedules. The actions listed on “Schedule A” primarily involve injuries allegedly caused by pharmaceutical products that were contaminated by fungus or other toxins and resulted in rare eye infections, blindness, and other injuries. The plaintiffs in those tort actions had supported the Central District of California as the venue for the litigation. The panel, however, found that the Schedule A actions involved common questions of fact, and that centralization in the Eastern District Louisiana would be convenient for the parties and witnesses, and would promote “the just and efficient conduct” of the litigation. Moreover, the panel stated that all the actions share factual questions relating to injuries arising from the alleged contamination of pharmaceutical products compounded and distributed by Franck’s Lab and Franck’s Pharmacy—primarily, Brilliant Blue G, Triamcinolone, and Avastin. These products were the subject of recall notices issued between March and May of 2012. The panel maintained that centralization would eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary.

The action listed on Schedule B was a declaratory judgment action by Evanston Insurance Company concerning whether it had a duty to defend or indemnify Franck’s in connection with the tort actions on Schedule A. The panel denied transfer of the Schedule B declaratory judgment action in light of the proceedings being at a more advanced stage.

In re: Effexor (Venlafaxine Hydrochloride) Products Liability Litigation. The federal judicial panel also centralized actions sharing allegations that Effexor, a prescription medication approved for the treatment of depression, causes birth defects in children when their mothers ingest the drug while pregnant. The panel found that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was an appropriate forum because defendants Wyeth LLC and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc. (collectively, Wyeth) are headquartered in that district and at least five actions are pending in that district as well, including the case, Boyer v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (C.A. No. 2:12-00739), which the panel said was the most advanced of the actions to be centralized. The panel also noted that the claims regarding Effexor in the litigation paralleled the claims in the multidistrict litigation relating to the drug Zoloft (In re: Zoloft (Sertraline Hydrochloride) Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2342), which was already before the same judge who would be hearing the Effexor cases, Judge Cynthia M. Rufe. In addition, both the Effexor and Zoloft matters involved Pfizer Inc. and Pfizer International LLC (collectively, Pfizer) as a common defendant. According to the panel, there could be some overlap between these litigations in pretrial proceedings, particularly relating to expert discovery, and Judge Rufe was “in a unique position to guide” the Effexor litigation, which involved some of the same parties and attorneys as the Zoloft litigation, “to an efficient resolution.”

The case numbers are MDL No. 2454 and MDL No. 2458.

Companies: Franck’s Lab, Inc., Franck’s Pharmacy, Inc., Pfizer Inc., Pfizer International LLC, Wyeth LLC, and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc.

MainStory: TopStory JurisdictionNews DrugsNews PennsylvaniaNews LouisianaNews

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