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About 845 plaintiffs have reportedly reached an agreement to settle their Levaquin lawsuits with Johnson & Johnson, resolving about one-third of the claims filed by former users of the popular antibiotic who allegedly suffered tendon ruptures.
Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Levaquin, currently faces about 3,434 product liability lawsuits filed in state and federal courts throughout the United States.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that the drug maker failed to adequately research the side effects of Levaquin or warn about the risk of tendon damage that may develop during use.
The Levaquin settlements were disclosed on October 30, during a recent status conference held before U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim, who is presiding over the consolidated Levaquin litigation pending in the federal court system.
Approximately 1,923 lawsuits filed in federal courts throughout the country are centralized before Judge Tunheim, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The cases are consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
Johnson & Johnson also faces another 1,509 Levaquin tendon rupture lawsuits that are pending in New Jersey state court, and another two cases pending in Illinois state court.
According to minutes (PDF) from the status conference held before Judge Tunheim earlier this week, the settlement has been reached in a group of cases represented by a small number of law firms. Although the terms of the agreement were reached in September 2012, the parties informed the court that the settlement should be finalized in the next two weeks. Details about the amount of compensation to be paid to the plaintiffs has not been released.
Another 190 plaintiffs are believed to be close to reaching an agreement to settle their Levaquin claims with Johnson & Johnson. The parties also indicated that they are working on a standardized settlement protocol, where plaintiffs will be able to submit their claims for evaluation.
Settlements Come After Series of Levaquin Bellwether Trials
As part of the Levaquin MDL, a small group of cases have been prepared for early trial dates, known as bellwether cases. In complex product liability litigation, the outcomes of these trials are often useful in helping the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be offered throughout the litigation.
In the first four Levaquin trials that have been presented to federal juries, Johnson & Johnson has successfully defended itself in three of the claims. However, one plaintiff was awarded $1.8 million in damages for a Levaquin tendon rupture in December 2010. In addition, in at least one of the cases where Johnson & Johnson prevailed, the jury found that the drug maker failed to adequately warn consumers and doctors about the risk of tendon damage from Levaquin, but found that the plaintiff failed to establish that his specific injuries were caused by the antibiotic.
The FDA required Johnson & Johnson and the manufacturers of other similar antibiotics, such as Cipro, to add a black box warning on the tendon rupture risk in July 2009, which is the strongest warning that can be placed on a prescription medication.
The product liability lawsuits over Levaquin allege that the drug makers should have added the warnings years earlier, as a petition was filed by a consumer group as early as 2006, urging the FDA to require the makers of Levaquin to provide clearer warning about the risk of tendon damage.