Attorneys to be Appointed to Leadership Roles in Lipitor Diabetes Lawsuits

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Lipitor lawsuits will soon designate a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys to serve in various leadership roles in the litigation, taking certain actions that will benefit all women currently pursuing a claim against Pfizer in the federal courts after being diagnosed with diabetes following use of Lipitor. 

In February, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated proceedings for all product liability lawsuits over Lipitor diabetes side effects, centralizing complaints filed throughout the country before U.S. District Judge Richard K. Gergel in South Carolina.

While there were only about sixty cases pending at the time the Lipitor MDL (multidistrict litigation) was established, there are currently more than 270 cases centralized before Judge Gergel. Many Lipitor injury lawyers reviewing cases for women diagnosed with diabetes believe that there will ultimately be several thousand cases included in the litigation.

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All of the complaints involve nearly identical allegations that Pfizer failed to provide adequate warnings for women and the medical community about the risk of developing diabetes associated with the popular cholesterol drug. Centralizing pretrial proceedings are designed to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

Lipitor Litigation Status Conference

Following an initial status conference held late last month, Judge Gergel issued a case management order (PDF) on March 28, outlining the overall structure and organization of the litigation.

Judge Gergel indicates that a group of attorneys will be appointed to serve on a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC), which will be responsible for conducting common discovery in the litigation, presenting the position of all plaintiffs to the Court and Pfizer, as well as entering into any stipulations or settlement agreements as necessary during pretrial proceedings.

A smaller group of attorneys will be appointed to serve as Lead Counsel or members of a Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee, which will be responsible for coordinating and overseeing the activities of the Plaintiffs during the Lipitor litigation. Judge Gergel may also appoint a Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel to receive notices and orders of the Court on behalf of all Plaintiffs and make documents available to all attorneys involved in the Lipitor litigation.

Attorneys wishing to be considered for leadership roles in the MDL, or who wish to submit a statement supporting another attorney seeking a position, have 10 days from the date the order to submit information for review by Judge Gergel before appointments are made.

Lipitor Diabetes Lawsuit Allegations

Lipitor (atorvastatin) is one of the most widely used brand-name medications in the United States, and it has been used by millions of Americans.

All of the cases involve similar allegations brought by otherwise healthy women who have been diagnosed with diabetes after taking Lipitor to lower their cholesterol levels. Plaintiffs claim that Pfizer knew or reasonably should have known about the diabetes risk, yet placed their desire for profits before consumer safety by withholding information from patients and the medical community.

In February 2012, the FDA required new diabetes warnings for Lipitor and other similar statins, informing users for the first time that they may face an increased risk of changes to blood glucose levels. However, plaintiffs allege that Pfizer was aware of the possible risk of diabetes long before these warnings were issued, with some studies connecting statins to diabetes date as far back as 2004.

Plaintiffs maintain that if they had been provided proper warnings about the Lipitor risks, they could have avoided diabetes by choosing not to take the cholesterol drug or by diligently monitoring their blood glucose levels during treatment.

As part of the coordinated proceedings before Judge Gergel, it is expected that a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge the strengths and weaknesses of their cases. The preparation of these lawsuits and the outcomes of any early trial dates may facilitate Lipitor settlements for women diagnosed with diabetes, avoiding the need for hundreds of individual cases to go before juries throughout the country.


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