Hearing on Abilify Gambling Causation to Begin July 31

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Abilify gambling lawsuits will hold a three day hearing next week, to consider evidence on general causation about the risk of compulsive behaviors linked to the popular antipsychotic medication. 

There are currently about 200 product liability lawsuits pending in the federal court system against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, each raising similar allegations that users and the medical community were not adequately warned about the side effects of Abilify, and the importance of monitoring for signs of compulsive gambling, uncontrollable shopping, hyper-sexual activity and other destructive behavior linked to impulse control problems that typically emerge shortly after starting use of Abilify, or increasing the dose.

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed nationwide, the cases have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida, as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which is designed to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and service the convenience of witnesses, parties and the judicial system.

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Judge Rodgers has previously established a bellwether program, where a small group of cases will be fast tracked for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain issues and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, the Court will first consider whether plaintiffs have sufficient evidence to establish a general causation link between Abilify and impulsive or compulsive behavior.

According to an order (PDF) issued on this week, a three day general causation hearing will begin on July 31. Following a case management conference on Monday morning, the court will hear opening statements from each side beginning at 10:30 a.m. central time, followed testimony over the next three days, before considering closing arguments on Wednesday, August 2.

Although Judge Rodgers previously indicated that the first Abilify trial dates may begin by the end of this year if plaintiffs’ claims survive challenges based on general causation, the Court has expressed frustration at the slower-than-expected pace of new cases being filed, which may limit the pool of eligible claims from which the parties could select representative bellwether cases.

Abilify lawyers are investigating several thousand additional gambling claims that have not yet been filed, gathering documentation of gambling losses or other damages to support the filing of a lawsuit against the drug makers for failure to warn.

As a result of difficulties plaintiffs have experienced obtaining records and documentation for gambling problems on Abilify, Judge Rodgers has issued prior orders designed to assist in gathering information from casinos, financial firms and other entities that have exclusive possession of data needed for the claims.

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.

While the outcome of early trial dates in the MDL or other state court litigation will not be binding on other claims in the litigation, they will be closely watched by parties involved in the lawsuits, as they may influence eventual Abilify settlement negotiations to avoid the need for hundreds of individual trial dates in courts nationwide.

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