The U.S. Judicial Panel on Mutlidistrict Litigation (JPML) has agreed to consolidate all Lipitor diabetes lawsuits filed against Pfizer throughout the federal court system, centralizing all pretrial proceedings before one judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
Several hundred product liability complaints have been filed by women throughout the United States, all involving similar allegations that Pfizer failed to provide adequate warnings for users or the medical community about the risk of diabetes from side effects of Lipitor.
Following oral arguments heard earlier this month on a motion to consolidate the Lipitor litigation, a panel of federal judges found that the rapidly increasing number of lawsuits filed throughout the country justify centralized management to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
According to an order (PDF) issued on February 18, all Lipitor cases filed throughout the federal court system will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel for coordinated handling in South Carolina.
At the time the request for consolidation was filed, there were at least 56 cases pending, including 14 that were already filed in the South Carolina federal court. However, the panel estimates that there are at least another 170 tag-along cases filed in recent weeks, which will also be transferred into the Lipitor MDL. In addition, as lawyers continue to review and file new cases for women alleging they developed diabetes following Lipitor use, those cases will also be transferred to Judge Gergel.
Centralization of Lipitor Litigation
The U.S. JPML previously denied a similar request to centralize all Lipitor cases in July 2013, finding that there were an insufficient number of lawsuits pending at that time to justify establishing consolidated proceedings, as there were only a few dozen complaints filed nationwide.
Following a continued increase in the number of new Lipitor complaints brought in different U.S. District Courts, a group of plaintiffs filed a renewed request for centralization in October 2013, arguing that it is necessary to centralize the cases before one judge.
The JPML agreed with the plaintiffs, finding that the number of lawsuits, plaintiffs, and law firms involved has grown considerably. The panel also rejected an argument by Pfizer that consolidation would draw an increased number of frivolous Lipitor lawsuits.
“In our judgment, the increased presence of apparently unique counsel, coupled with the increased number of involved actions, districts, and judges, makes it highly difficult, if not impossible, to coordinate this litigation effectively on an informal basis,” the JPML determined. “To the extent that any of these actions (or any actions filed in the future) lack substantive merit, centralization will inure, in fact, to Pfizer’s ultimate benefit.”
Lipitor (atorvastatin) is one of the most widely used brand-name medications in the United States, and it is widely expected that several thousand cases will ultimately be filed throughout the federal court system as lawyers continue to review claims for women diagnosed with diabetes.