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The U.S. District Judge presiding over hundreds of individual Abilify gambling lawsuits has randomly selected six claims for a “fast-tracked” discovery, to prepare for early trial dates that will help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
The cases were selected from more than 1,600 Abilify gambling claims pending in the federal court system, each raising similar allegations that users devastating gambling addictions, or engaged in other compulsive behaviors shortly after starting use of the drug or changing doses.
Plaintiffs each maintain that they would have avoided financial losses and other damages if doctors and consumers had been informed about the importance of monitoring for signs of uncontrollable urges to gamble or engage in other risk behavior while using Abilify.
Given similar questions of fact and law, the litigation has been centralized in the Northern District of Florida before U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who is presiding over discovery into common issues in the cases and other pretrial proceedings.
A series of three early trial dates were expected to begin this summer, which were viewed as “test” cases to help the parties weigh the relative strengths and weaknesses of their claims. However, before the first trial began, the parties reached agreements to settle those Abilify cases in late April 2018.
Following that agreement, Judge Rodgers ordered the parties to work on finalizing the framework for a global Abilify settlement agreement by September 1, which could have resolved all claims. However, after the parties failed to reach an agreement, the Court has ordered that a second group of cases be prepared for early trial dates, and selected six claims for “fast-tracked” discovery.
In an Order and Notice (PDF) issued on September 14, Judge Rodgers identified claims filed by Bruce Bletz, of Louisiana; Licente Harned, of Pennsylvania; Christine M. Kennedy, of Massachusetts; Annette Northcutt, of Nevada; and Louis M. Ortiz and Valerie D. Stingley, both from Arizona.
In a separate case management order (PDF) issued the same day, Judge Rodgers noted that the next set of trials will begin in the spring of 2019, with specific starting dates to be set in a future order.
Now that the cases have been selected, each of the plaintiffs must provide a completed Plaintiff Fact Sheet, medical, financial and gambling record authorizations, and copies of relevant records within one week.
“The Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and Joint Discovery Committee are directed to confer and submit a proposed discovery schedule for these six cases by October 26, 2018, given that the trial(s) will be held in spring 2019,” the case management order states. “The proposed schedule should include a briefing schedule for dispositive and other significant motions (e.g., consolidation, punitive damages, statutes of limitations) that will need to be resolved before trial.”
Following the conclusion of this second round of bellwether trials, if the parties still fail to reach an agreement to settle Abilify cases or otherwise resolve the litigation, Judge Rodgers may begin remanding large numbers of cases for individual trial dates in federal courts nationwide.
The next case management conference is scheduled for October 26.