U.S. District Judge John Tunheim, who is presiding over all Levaquin lawsuits in federal court, has identified six cases that will serve as “bellwether” trials in the litigation, with early trial dates to help gauge how juries will respond to evidence and testimony that is likely to be presented in hundreds of other similar lawsuits that allege Johnson & Johnson’s popular antibiotic increases the risk of tendon damage.
All lawsuits over Levaquin filed in various federal district courts throughout the United States are centralized before Judge Tunheim for pretrial litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The cases involve similar allegations that the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the increased risk of tendon ruptures and other tendon injuries that can occur from side effects of Levaquin.
According to a pretrial order issued on February 12, the plaintiffs and defendants have agreed on the first six cases that will be prepared for trial. The lawsuits were picked from a pool of 15 cases that were previously identified as potential bellwether cases, and include Levaquin suits brought by Sharon Johnson, Calvin Christensen, Richard Kirkes, John Schedin, Edward Karkoska and Eugene Markina.
The order calls for depositions of experts in the cases to be completed by June 30, and the first case should be ready for trial by the end of October. However, Judge Tunheim did not say when the first trial will start, indicating that decisions will be made at a later date about the order in which the cases will be tried and whether they will be submitted to juries individually or as part of a consolidated trial.
In December, Judge Tunheim denied a motion by plaintiffs to consolidate three of the bellwether Levaquin trials. Plaintiffs argued that the consolidation of the cases into one trial would promote judicial efficiency while still testing the merits of the arguments of future cases. After defendants opposed the plan, Judge Tunheim determined that it was too early to determine whether the cases were alike enough to try them together. He left the door open for plaintiffs to submit a new motion later in the discovery process when more was known about the cases.