Lawsuits Over Taxotere Eye Side Effects Consolidated In Louisiana Federal Court

MDL Judges said there appear to be at least 100 Taxotere eye injury cases waiting to be filed by plaintiffs who experienced vision problems due excessive tearing and watery eyes caused by Taxotere.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has decided that all Taxotere lawsuits over eye side effects and excessive tearing caused by the chemotherapy drug will be consolidated for pretrial proceedings before the same U.S. District Judge presiding over thousands of other claims involving permanent hair loss problems linked to the breast cancer treatment.

Taxotere (docetaxel) is a chemotherapy injection introduced by Sanofi-Aventis in May 1996, as a treatment of individuals with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. With a number of safer and equally effective treatment alternatives available, the drug maker now faces lawsuits over failing to warn patients and the medical community about the risk of several potential side effects of Taxotere.

Over the past five years, Sanofi has been facing more than 12,000 lawsuits over permanent hair loss caused by Taxotere, which is not a side effects associated with other treatment options. In that litigation, plaintiffs claiming that false and misleading information was provided that suggested hair would regrow after chemotherapy treatment, and the cases have been centralized as part of a federal MDL (multidistrict litigation) in the Eastern District of Louisiana since October 2016.

More recently, more than a dozen new lawsuits over Taxotere eye side effects have been filed in various different U.S. District Courts nationwide, each involving similar allegations that users experienced excessive tearing and watery eyes, leading to permanent vision problems following chemotherapy.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in these new claims, plaintiffs filed a motion with the U.S. JPML in December, asking that the cases be consolidated as part of a new MDL, indicating that discovery proceedings should be centralized in either the Northern District of California or the District of Arizona, where a number of the claims were already pending.

Following oral arguments held last week, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued a transfer order (PDF) on February 1, deciding that the Taxotere eye injury lawsuits would be best managed by the same judge already presiding over the hair loss litigation, indicating that the cases will all be transferred to U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo.

“The Eastern District of Louisiana is an appropriate transferee district for this litigation,” according to the order. “[Hair loss litigation] involving the same drug and Sanofi defendants is pending in that district before Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. Although the injury alleged here is different from the permanent hair loss injury…, there may be some overlap between these litigations in pretrial proceedings. Further, this litigation involves some of the same parties and counsel. Judge Milazzo, therefore, is in a unique position to guide this litigation to an efficient resolution.”

Sanofi initially opposed consolidation of the Taxotere eye injury cases, suggesting they should be folded in with the existing hair loss MDL if they needed to be consolidated at all. However, the JPML points out that it is aware of possibly as many as 100 other plaintiffs who intend to file Taxotere lawsuits over eye injury side effects in the near future, and believed the cases are substantially different enough from the hair loss claims, and the number of cases likely to be high enough, that they deserved their own centralized proceedings.

As part of the Taxotere MDL process, Judge Milazzo will preside over discover and pretrial proceedings, and will likely schedule a separate series of bellwether trials to see how juries respond to evidence and testimony about the link between Taxotere and eye problems, which would likely be repeated in most cases. However, if Taxotere settlements for watery eyes and excessive tearing are not reached, or the litigation is not otherwise resolved, each individual case may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it originated for future trial dates.

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