Benicar Chronic Diarrhea Lawsuits Remanded Back to State Court

A U.S. District Judge has determined that two Benicar lawsuits filed over chronic diarrhea and other problems associated with the popular hypertension drugs should be returned back to New Jersey state court, where the plaintiffs originally filed the cases.

A number of product liability lawsuits have been filed against Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories, alleging that the drug makers failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the risk of chronic diarrhea from Benicar side effects, which could cause users to suffer severe gastrointestinal damage.

At least two complaints filed earlier this year in New Jersey state court were promptly removed by the drug makers to the federal court system, claiming that the state actions should proceed in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey based on diversity jurisdiction.

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In an order (PDF) issued on April 9, U.S. District Judge Joseph Irenas granted a motion filed by the plaintiffs to remand the cases back to state court. The complaints were filed separately by George and Martha Williams, and Shelly and Abu Rahman, but Judge Irenas issued a joint opinion since the cases raise the same question of law and have “highly similar factual circumstances.”

Both lawsuits were filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey for Atlantic County on February 6, 2014, involving claims for personal injuries and loss of consortium as a result of chronic diarrhea problems caused by Benicar.

After the complaints were filed, but before the state court issued summons were served on all of the defendants, Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. filed a Notice of Remand. While the drug makers do not dispute that the co-defendant Daiichi Sankyo is a citizen of New Jersey and would destroy diversity jurisdiction of the federal courts, Forest claimed that because service had not been obtained on the New Jersey defendants, removal was appropriate.

Judge Irenas indicated that while the grounds for removal to the federal court were there under the plain reading of the rules, it was improper to allow the out-of-state defendants to remove the case before the plaintiffs were actually capable of serving the in-state defendants that would have resulted in the case remaining in New Jersey state court

“In the absence of any evidence that the joinder of the forum Defendants was improper, this Court holds that the removal of these two cases violated the forum defendant rule because of the presence of the three forum defendants… and the impossibility of service on those Defendants before removal,” wrote Judge Irenas, in explaining that permitting such a violation of the intention of the rule would be “permitting gamesmanship.”

While Judge Irenas did grant the Plaintiffs’ request to send the cases back to New Jersey state court for further proceedings, a request for plaintiffs to be awarded attorney fees incurred during the legal maneuvering over the venue for the cases was denied.

Benicar Lawsuits Over Chronic Diarrhea, Sprue-Like Enteropathy

The cases are among a growing number of Benicar diarrhea lawsuits brought by individuals throughout the U.S. in recent months, which all involve similar allegations that Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Pharmaceuticals failed to adequately research their popular medication and placed their desire for profits before consumer safety by withholding information for years about the link between Benicar and diarrhea.

Benicar (olmesartan medoxomil) is a blockbuster medication that is part of a class of drugs known as angiotensin II recepbor blockers (ARBs). It was introduced in 2002 for the treatment of high blood pressure. There were an estimated 10.6 million prescriptions for Benicar or Benicar HCT in 2012, making it the third highest selling ARB medication.

In July 2013, the FDA issued a drug safety communication informing consumers and the medical community for the first time about the risk of Benicar causing intestinal problems known as sprue-like enteropathy, which is associated with chronic diarrhea, weight gain and other gastrointestinal damage.

Federal health regulators indicated that users may develop symptoms of chronic diarrhea that begin months or even years after the patients first started the treatment regimen. While the symptoms typically stop when the medication is no longer used, many users have reported suffering continuing problems caused by the prolonged bouts with diarrhea that damage the intestines.

The FDA warnings came nearly a year after a study was published in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, which highlighted reports of 22 cases of Benicar patients suffering symptoms similar to Celiac disease, which also affects the small intestines. This study was the first to raise public awareness of the potential side effects associated with Benicar, highlighting how many doctors do not know about the connection.

As individuals learn about the link between the medication and chronic diarrhea problems that may have been on-going for some time, it is ultimately expected that several hundred individuals throughout the U.S. will contact Benicar injury lawyers about pursuing a case.

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