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The judge presiding over the federal Actos litigation, involving product liability lawsuits brought by individuals who developed bladder cancer after taking the type 2 diabetes drug, has designated an attorney to provide information and guidance to individuals who have filed their claims without representation by a lawyer.
In an order (PDF) issued January 29, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty appointed W. James Singleton to serve as Pro Se Liaison Counsel, acting as the connection between unrepresented plaintiffs and the Actos lawyers serving in leadership roles in the litigation, known as the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee.
Pro Se plaintiffs are those individuals who have chosen to represent themselves in their lawsuit, without hiring an attorney. Singleton’s appointment does not result in providing legal representation to those individuals, but he will act as the liaison with the Court.
“The Pro Se Liaison shall be responsible for providing information, explanation and assistance to pro se plaintiffs in order to facilitate their compliance with the orders of this Court, the deadlines established by this Court, and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,” wrote Judge Doherty in the order.
Actos Litigation Over Bladder Cancer
Judge Doherty is presiding over more than 1,000 Actos bladder cancer lawsuits, which have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of and MDL, or Multi-District Litigation.
All complaints filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country have been centralized before Judge Doherty in the Western District of Louisiana to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
The lawsuits involve common allegations of fact and law, claiming that Takeda Pharmaceuticals failed to adequately research the potential side effects of Actos or warn about the increased risk of bladder cancer users may face the longer they take the type 2 diabetes drug.
The FDA required new warnings about the risk of bladder cancer from Actos in June 2011, after a study conducted by the drug maker found a higher incidence of cancer among users of the drug.
As part of the consolidated federal Actos MDL, a small group of cases are being prepared for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” trials, which are expected to begin in November 2013. A small group of lawyers have been appointed to serve on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, taking actions that benefit all individuals who have brought a claim.
While the vast majority of plaintiffs who have brought a lawsuit are represented by their own attorney, a small handful of cases were filed pro se. Liaison counsel was appointed after Judge Doherty requested that one member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee be designated to provide the necessary information and guidance for unrepresented individuals.