Lipitor Case Management Order to be Discussed at MDL Meeting

Lawyers involved in the federal Lipitor diabetes cases are scheduled to meet on Friday with the U.S. District Judge presiding over the MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation, to discuss competing proposals submitted regarding the management of the pretrial litigation and preparations for the first trials, which could be ready to start in the second half of next year.

In February, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established centralized proceedings in the federal court system for all product liability lawsuits filed by women throughout the country who allege that Pfizer failed to provide adequate warnings about the risk of diabetes from Lipitor side effects.

The litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard K. Gergel in the District of South Carolina for coordinated proceedings in the MDL to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the witnesses, parties and the courts.

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Over the past two months, the number of Lipitor lawsuits has grown quickly. Although there were only 56 cases transferred to Judge Gergel at the time the MDL was established, an updated case list (PDF) released this month indicates that there are already 464 Lipitor cases in the MDL.

On April 22, a joint proposed case management order (PDF) was submitted by attorneys for Pfizer and a group of plaintiffs’ lawyers appointed to leadership roles in the litigation. While the parties agreed on many aspects involving how the cases should move forward, there were a number of areas where they were unable to reach an agreement. However, both sides indicate that the first Lipitor cases may be ready for trial to begin by June 15, 2015.

Lipitor Litigation Status

All of the cases centralized in the Lipitor litigation involve nearly identical allegations raised by women diagnosed with diabetes. Plaintiffs claim that Pfizer has known about the link between Lipitor and diabetes, yet withheld information from consumers and the medical community while building their blockbuster cholesteral drug, which is one of the most widely used brand-name medications in the U.S.

While the litigation remains in the early stages, it is ultimately expected that thousands of cases will ultimately be included in the MDL, as Lipitor injury lawyers continue to review and file new claims for women diagnosed with diabetes after use of the drug.

As part of the coordinated proceedings before Judge Gergel, both proposals call for a small group of cases to be prepared for early trial dates in the MDL. Known as “bellwether” cases, such trials are designed to help the court and the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. While the outcomes of these trials will not be binding in other lawsuits, they may facilitate settlements in Lipitor diabetes cases filed nationwide.

According to the joint statement submitted this week, Pfizer indicates that a pool of 14 cases, which the drug maker has already selected, should be prepared for trial sometime during the summer of 2015, with proposals for the schedule of expert disclosures and motion deadlines submitted by the parties by May 8, 2014.

Plaintiffs also agree that the first cases should be ready for trial by June 2015 and that proposed discovery and trial plans should be submitted early next month, but indicate that the parties should continue to discuss the details over the next few weeks, including an agreed plaintiffs’ fact sheet, discovery groups and a bellwether selection process.

Pfizer has also proposed that all Lipitor lawsuits filed in the MDL should be restricted to one plaintiff per complaint, while plaintiffs’ attorneys have asked Judge Gergel to consider allowing multi-complaint filings, which could be filed on behalf of otherwise unrelated women who have virtually identical claims.

A status conference is scheduled before Judge Gergel for Friday, April 25.

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