According to court documents filed in the Levaquin MDL, Johnson & Johnson currently faces at least 33 tendon rupture lawsuits involving their popular antibiotic. However, that number will likely grow substantially over the next few months, as Levaquin lawyers throughout the country continue to investigate hundreds of other cases.
A formal status conference was held on October 17, 2008, before U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim who is coordinating the litigation that was recently centralized in a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in the District of Minnesota four months ago.
There are 30 Levaquin tendon rupture lawsuits that have already been transferred to the MDL, and Johnson & Johnson also faces at least three more cases that have been filed in various state courts, according to minutes from the conference released by the Court yesterday.
Levaquin is an antibiotic used for the treatment of upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, prostatis and other bacterial infections. It belongs to a class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones, and has been associated with tendon toxicity and an increased risk of tendon ruptures, most frequently involving the Achilles tendon.
At the status conference, the parties and the court discussed the anticipated scope of the MDL, pretrial orders on various case procedures, the discovery plan and the process for selecting bellwether cases, which will be the first Levaquin lawsuits prepared for trial.
In pharmaceutical lawsuits and other complex litigation, the first cases to go through discovery and trial are referred to as “bellwether” cases, since they are selected to be representative of the issues that will be presented throughout the litigation.
As we reported on Monday, lawyers for individuals who have suffered ruptured tendons have urged the court to front load the early discovery with eight cases that were filed directly in Minnesota, which would allow the cases to be tried before the court that is overseeing the MDL. However, Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers have sugested that insufficient information has been provided about those cases to judge whether the Minnesota Levaquin cases would be the most appropriate bellwether trials.
According to the Minutes from the conference, the Court directed the plaintiffs to provide fact sheets on all eight cases providing basic information to the defendants. Johnson & Johnson will then need to provide the Court with a counter proposal concerning bellwether trials and a plan for case-specific discovery.
At this early stage of the litigation, it is unclear how many lawsuits will ultimately be filed in the MDL, and it often takes several years for cases of this nature to resolve. Personal injury lawyers are actively advertising for individuals who have suffered Levaquin tendon ruptures.