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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Abilify gambling addiction lawsuits has agreed to send a group of 21 cases back to California state court, determining that the drug maker failed to justify removing the claims to the federal court system.
The remand comes in response to a request filed by plaintiffs to return the claims to the California state court system, where they were originally filed, so that they can proceed toward trial over claims that Bristol-Myers Squibb, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and other defendants failed to adequately warn that users of the popular antipsychotic may develop sudden and uncontrollable urges to gamble.
The order comes as several thousand Abilify lawsuits remain pending in the federal court system, awaiting the outcome of “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
Given similar questions of fact and law over the link between Abilify and gambling problems, complaints pending in U.S. District Courts nationwide have been centralized in the Northern District of Florida, where U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers has been presiding over coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings since 2016.
A series of three early trial dates were expected to begin last summer, but the parties reached agreements to settle those Abilify cases in late April 2018.
After the parties failed to reach a global Abilify settlement for gambling problems suffered by users of the drug, Judge Rodgers established another bellwether program, and selected another small group of cases that are being prepared for another set of early trial dates, which are expected to begin in the Spring of 2019.
In an order (PDF) issued on November 8, Judge Rodgers granted plaintiffs’ request to remand 21 complaints back to California Superior Court, indicating that defendants wrongly removed them to federal court, which will allow the litigation to move forward in the state court system while the bellwether trial process continues in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).
Following the additional round of bellwether trials in the federal court system, if the parties fail to settle or otherwise resolve the litigation, it is expected that Judge Rodgers will begin remanding large numbers of claims back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates over the next few years.