Series of Three Abilify Lawsuits Over Gambling Problems Set for Trials to Begin June 18, Aug 6 and Aug 27
To help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout other Abilify lawsuits over gambling problems, a series of three cases have been set for trial to begin over the summer. However, the cases were not selected because they are necessarily representative of the litigation, but rather because they were in the best position to go to trial early.
There are currently more than 600 product liability lawsuits being pursued against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals over failure to adequately warn about the risk of compulsive behavior problems with Abilify. However, as lawyers continue to investigate and file claims over the coming months, it is ultimately expected that more than 1,000 cases will be brought by individuals who have suffered devastating gambling losses after use of the atypical antipsychotic.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed throughout the federal court system, the Abilify litigation is currently centralized before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
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Early in the coordinated proceedings, Judge Rodgers pushed for an aggressive Abilify bellwether trial schedule, ordering the parties to prepare a group of cases originally filed in Florida for early trial dates to help each side weigh the relative strengths and weaknesses of their claims, and facilitate potential Abilify settlements for families who have suffered gambling problems, without the need for hundreds of individual trials to be set nationwide.
In a court order (PDF) issued on March 13, Judge Rodgers scheduled the first trial to begin on June 18, 2018, involving a complaint filed by Fanny and Darryl Lyons (PDF). That trial will be followed by a case brought by David and Cassie Viechec (PDF) and a case brought by Jennifer Lilly (PDF), which are scheduled to begin on August 6 and August 27, 2018.
Approximately two weeks have been reserved for each of the three Abilify bellwether trials. While the outcomes will not be binding on other plaintiffs involved in the litigation, they will be closely watched and could greatly influence the direction of the cases.
Typically, such bellwether cases are chosen based on their ability to represent claims commonly raised throughout other lawsuits in mass litigation, meaning that they have characteristics that are similar to those other cases in general. However, these were chosen because they were filed early and were close to being trial-ready when Judge Rodgers was appointed to preside over the litigation.
“At the outset, the Court wishes to remind the parties that the cases in the first trial pool are not intended to serve as a true bellwether sample because neither the cases nor their characteristics were analyzed before selection nor was the selection random,” Judge Rodgers wrote in the order.
As a result, the parties are in the process of selecting a second round of bellwether trials, which are expected to be more representative of the larger body of cases as a whole.
In a proposal (PDF) submitted on March 16, plaintiffs call for the next round of bellwether cases to be selected from both Florida and California, which has the largest number of complaints. They also call for the cases to focus on those who took Abilify for either major depressive disorder or depression; the two most common reasons for the drug is prescribed. The proposal also urges the Court to focus on cases that involve gambling addiction, as opposed to other compulsive behaviors linked to Abilify, such as compulsive shopping and sex addiction.
The defendants’ proposal (PDF) differs significantly, calling for the next discovery pool to involve 25 randomly selected claims from the MDL pool, without the cases consciously reflecting any broad category. The drug makers argue that is the only way to make the process fair to both sides.
The disagreement comes after Judge Rodgers rejected a summary judgment motion (PDF) filed by the drug makers, which sought to have the cases dismissed on the issue of general causation. Until March 15, the order denying that motion had been sealed.
At the same time Abilify cases are moving forward in the federal MDL, a parallel state court litigation has been established in New Jersey, where Superior Court Judge James De Luca is presiding over all cases filed in the state, and established a bellwether track where the first trials could begin by the end of 2018.
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