Actos Litigation Status Conference Set for Tomorrow in MDL

Attorneys involved in the federal Actos bladder cancer lawsuits are scheduled to meet tomorrow with the U.S. District Judge presiding over the consolidated litigation, providing an update on the status of thousands of cases pending against Takeda Pharmaceuticals. 

There are currently more than 3,600 product liability lawsuits pending before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in the Western District of Louisiana, which all involve similar claims that plaintiffs developed bladder cancer from side effects of Actos.

Takeda Pharmaceuticals has been accused of withholding information about the potential risk associated with the diabetes drug from consumers and the medical community.

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In the federal court system, the Actos cases have been centralized as part of a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) before Judge Doherty to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the lawsuits, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings issued by different judges and to serve the convenience of witnesses, parties and the courts.

Judge Doherty issued an agenda (PDF) this week for a status conference scheduled for August 21, at which time lawyers representing plaintiffs in the litigation and attorneys for Takeda Pharmaceuticals are expected to update the Court on recent developments in the Actos litigation, provide information on the number of new cases filed in state and federal courts nationwide, as well as an update on progress with discovery and other pretrial proceedings.

Actos Bellwether Trials

The status conference comes in the wake of a $9 billion verdict in the first Actos bellwether trial held in the federal MDL earlier this year.

The case was scheduled as the first in a series of trials designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. While the outcomes of these early trial dates are not binding in other cases, they are designed to promote possible Actos settlement agreements that may avoid the need for thousands of individual trials to be scheduled nationwide.

Following the record setting verdict, Takeda Pharmaceuticals has filed motion to overturn or reduce the award, which included $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $9 billion in punitive damages designed to punish the drug makers for withholding information about the link between Actos and bladder cancer.

In addition to cases pending before Judge Doherty in the federal Actos MDL, a large number of cases have been filed in various state courts throughout the country. At least four trials have already taken place at the state level, with conflicting results.

In May 2013, a California jury awarded $6.5 million in damages over Actos bladder cancer in a case brought by Jack Cooper, who was given an expedited trial date due to his grave health. However, following post-trial motions, that verdict was reversed after the state court judge excluded the plaintiffs’ expert witness testimony.

A second trial was held in Maryland state court in September 2013, which resulted in a jury finding that Takeda failed to adequately warn about the risk of bladder cancer from Actos and awarding $1.77 million in damages. However, the case resulted in a defense verdict for the drug maker under a unique Maryland law, known as contributory negligence, as the jury also found that the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care for his own health, which nullified the negligence of the drug maker.

A third Actos bladder cancer trial concluded late last year in Nevada state court, which resulted in a defense verdict after the jury determined that both Actos and the plaintiff’s history as a smoker contributed to the development of bladder cancer. In that case, the plaintiff also ordered generic versions of Actos from online pharmacies, which raised questions as to whether Actos or unknown factors in the generic versions purchased online could have contributed to the development of the disease in that case.

Only weeks after the $9 billion verdict returned by a federal jury, another Actos trial in Las Vegas ended in a defense verdict. However, plaintiffs attorneys in that case are seeking a new trial because of the conduct of Takeda attorneys in front of the jury. During the trial, the Judge presiding over the case admonished the drug makers’ attorneys and advised the jurors that certain actions during the trial were inappropriate and should be disregarded.

Additional state court trials are expected to begin in the fall. A second MDL bellwether trial was originally set to begin in April 2014, but that trial date was continued earlier this year.


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