Lipitor Lawyers to Meet with MDL Judge This Week

The first status conference before the U.S. District Judge presiding over pretrial proceedings in all federal Lipitor diabetes lawsuits is scheduled for March 27, at which time lawyers involved in the litigation are expected to discuss the organization and structure of the rapidly growing MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation.

On February 18, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established centralized proceedings in the federal court system for all product liability lawsuits filed against Pfizer by women who allege the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk of diabetes from Lipitor side effects.

Complaints filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard K. Gergel in South Carolina, to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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While there were only about sixty cases transferred into the Lipitor MDL when it was established, over the past 45 days, more than 250 lawsuits have been transferred to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, and many Lipitor lawyers ultimately anticipate that several thousand cases will be included in the litigation.

According to the first Case Management Order (PDF) issued by Judge Gergel, an initial status conference will be held on Thursday, to discuss a number of issues that will be central to the litigation moving forward.

Judge Gergel is expected to discuss the appointment of liaison counsel and a group of lawyers to serve in various leadership roles throughout the litigation, including a committee of plaintiffs’ lawyers who will take certain actions that benefit all women who have filed a lawsuit over the diagnosis of diabetes from Lipitor.

Issues surrounding the filing of new cases, service of documents and coordination of discovery are also expected to be reviewed during this first conference before Judge Gergel, as well as the existence and status of any related Lipitor cases pending in state courts.

According to a proposal (PDF) submitted by lawyers representing certain plaintiffs with cases pending in South Carolina before the MDL was established, Judge Gergel has also been asked to adopt certain pretrial discovery, Orders and agreements that were reached between Pfizer and plaintiffs in South Carolina before consolidated proceedings were established.

While the organizational structure of the MDL is being established, Judge Gergel has stayed all ongoing discovery proceedings in the federal Lipitor cases.

Lipitor Diabetes Lawsuit Allegations

All of the cases involve similar allegations brought by otherwise healthy women who have been diagnosed with diabetes after taking Lipitor to lower their cholesterol levels. Plaintiffs claim that Pfizer knew or reasonably should have known about the diabetes risk, yet placed their desire for profits before consumer safety by withholding information from patients and the medical community.

Lipitor (atorvastatin) is one of the most widely used brand-name medications in the United States, and it has been used by millions of Americans.

In February 2012, the FDA required new diabetes warnings for Lipitor and other similar statins, informing users for the first time that they may face an increased risk of changes to blood glucose levels. However, plaintiffs allege that Pfizer was aware of the possible risk of diabetes long before these warnings were issued, with some studies connecting statins to diabetes date as far back as 2004.

Plaintiffs maintain that if they had been provided proper warnings about the Lipitor risks, they could have avoided diabetes by choosing not to take the cholesterol drug or by diligently monitoring their blood glucose levels during treatment.

As part of the coordinated proceedings before Judge Gergel, it is expected that a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge the strengths and weaknesses of their cases. The preparation of these lawsuits and the outcomes of any early trial dates may facilitate Lipitor settlements for women diagnosed with diabetes, avoiding the need for hundreds of individual cases to go before juries throughout the country.


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