Procedural Issues in Levaquin, Avelox Nerve Damage Lawsuits Outlined by MDL Judge
The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Levaquin lawsuits, Avelox lawsuits and Cipro lawsuits filed over permanent nerve damage allegedly caused by the popular antibiotics, has outlined early procedural processes in the recently consolidated multidistrict litigation (MDL).
There are currently at least 360 complaints filed throughout the federal court system over nerve problems caused by the fluoroquinolone-based antibiotics, and it is ultimately expected that several thousand lawsuits will be filed as lawyers continue to review and file cases for individuals diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy from Levaquin, Avelox or Cipro.
Given the similar allegations raised in the cases, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established coordinated pretrial proceedings for the lawsuits, centralizing the cases last year before U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim in the District of Minnesota, to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
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In a pretrial order (PDF) issued on February 12, Judge Tunheim addressed a number of procedural issues in the MDL, as the organizational structure for the pretrial proceedings are still being established.
Judge Tunheim indicates that he will soon appoint lead counsel and liaison counsel for both plaintiffs and defendants, as well as a group of lawyers who will serve on a Plaintiffs Steering Committee (PSC), taking certain actions throughout the litigation that will benefit all individuals who have filed a nerve damage lawsuit.
“The primary criteria for these appointments will be: (a) willingness and availability to commit to a time-consuming project; (b) ability to work cooperatively with others; (c) professional experience in this type of litigation; and (d) access to sufficient resources to advance the litigation in a timely manner,” wrote Judge Tunheim in the order. “For the PSC, the Court will consider only attorneys who have entered an appearance in one or more individual action(s) that is part of this case.”
Lawyers wishing to serve in these leadership roles have been directed to file applications or nominations by the end of this week, with any objections to an application or nomination filed by February 26.
Once the leadership structure is established, the PSC will have until March 14 to file a Master Complaint on behalf of all plaintiffs, outlining the common allegations in the cases. This process may also make it easier for individuals to bring future cases, by filing a short form complaint that adopts the allegations of the master complaint.
Future case management conferences have been scheduled before Judge Tunheim for February 24 and March 15, and the parties have been directed to meet and submit a joint proposed agenda at least three days before each conference.
Antibiotic Nerve Damage Risks
The antibiotic litigation over nerve damage has emerged since the FDA required new warnings for all fluoroquinolone-based antibiotics in August 2013.
While prior warnings provided with drugs like Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro indicated that some users experienced temporary nerve damage in rare cases, the FDA required the manufacturers of all fluoroquinolone antibiotics to provide stronger indication that the medications may cause long-lasting nerve damage, which may last for months or even years after an individual stops taking the antibiotic.
Peripheral neuropathy involves damage to the nerves that may impair sensation, movement and other aspects of health. This may leave users with persistent pain, burning, tingling, numbness, weakness and sensitivity to light touches, temperature and motion in the arms and legs, as well as other problems that cause a major disruption to daily activities.
Plaintiffs allege that the makers of Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro should have provided these warnings years ago, noting that the first indication of a possible link between long-term peripheral neuropathy and fluoroquinolone antibiotics came in a study published in 2001. If adequate warnings had been provided about the risk of permanent neuropathy problems, plaintiffs indicate that they may have avoided painful and debilitating injuries.
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