Invokana Litigation Gets Underway in Federal MDL

Following an initial case management conference in the recently centralized Invokana litigation, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the coordinated pretrial proceedings has announced that a special mediator will be appointed to discuss settlement possibilities and discovery issues, that a “science day” will be held together with state court judges, and that a streamlined process will be established for filing new cases by individuals nationwide. 

All federal product liability lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceutical over failure to warn about the side effects of Invokana have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti in the District of New Jersey to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and judicial system.

Each of the claims raise similar allegations that the new generation diabetes treatment caused users to suffer kidney failure, diabetic ketoacidosis, heart attacks and other injuries.

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While there are currently only about 100 claims pending nationwide, as Invokana lawyers continue to review and file complaints on behalf of individuals who experienced problems after switching to the new diabetes treatment, it is ultimately expected that several thousand lawsuits will be consolidated before Judge Martinotti for coordinated discovery and a series of bellwether trials.

The parties met with Judge Martinotti for a first status conference on January 12, at which time the parties discussed the status of the litigation and the first steps in moving the federal MDL (Multidistrict Litigation) forward.

In a case management order (PDF) issued late last week, Judge Martinotti indicates that a special mediator or special master will be appointed early in the litigation, in order to coordinate the resolution of discovery issues that may come up and to explore potential Invokana settlement agreements. The parties have been directed to meet and discuss the appointment, and provide the Court with an update by the next status conference.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Martinotti also indicates that a “Science Day” will be scheduled, at which the parties will have an opportunity to educate the court in a non-adversarial setting about the scientific literature and evidence that will come up in the Invokana litigation. State court judges presiding over Invokana claims will also be invited to hear the presentations, according to the order.

Over the coming weeks, the parties have also been directed to meet and discuss the preparations of a master complaint and short-form complaints, which could be used to make the filing of future Invokana claims more streamlined.

In addition, to move the Invokana litigation forward, Judge Martinotti wants the parties to develop a plaintiffs’ fact sheet, defendants’ fact sheet, a preservation order, a discovery plan and pretrial schedule.

It is also expected that a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys will be appointed to serve in various leadership roles in the litigation, with Judge Martinotti indicating that a proposed Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee should be submitted by January 20. These Invokana attorneys will take certain actions during the MDL proceedings that will benefit all plaintiffs.

Invokana (canagliflozin) is part of a new class of medications, known as sodium glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT-2) inhibitors, which work in a unique way, by altering some normal kidney functions to increase the amount of suger excreted in the urine. However, as more individuals have used the new generation diabetes treatments, a number of serious health risks have emerged, including diabetic ketoacidosis, heart attacks and kidney failure.

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