To help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has announced that oral arguments scheduled for this week will be held by telephone, and the panel of federal judges will attempt to determine whether a number of different types of lawsuits should be individually consolidated for pretrial proceedings in the federal court system.
In February, the U.S. JPML announced that oral arguments would be held in Nashville, Tennessee on March 26, at which time a number of different attorneys and jurists were expected to present arguments over whether federal multidistict litigations (MDLs) should be established for the growing number of Prevagen lawsuits, Entresto lawsuits and other claims being filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide that involve common questions of fact or law.
According to an amendment (PDF) issued March 12, the panel announced that the hearing session would be held by telephone instead, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The global outbreak has brought much of life throughout the United States, and around the world, to a temporary standstill. The court warned that conducting the hearing session face to face would create a danger for contagion, indicating that unless the Panel orders otherwise, “no parties or counsel need or shall be permitted to appear at the Hearing Session.”
Instead, the panel decided that the March 26 hearing session will be conducted by telephone from the JPML’s offices in Washington, D.C. The order also notes that the panel will consider all of the matters scheduled without oral argument. However, the JPML reserved the right to schedule oral arguments or supplemental briefing on a particular topic if necessary. Any parties allowed to contribute oral arguments, or a supplemental briefing, were notified by March 19.
“(I)f the Panel schedules oral argument in any matter for the March 26, 2020, Hearing Session, such argument shall be presented telephonically as directed by the Panel Clerk,” the order states.
One of several MDL petitions the panel is scheduled to decide includes calls for several Prevagen class action lawsuits to be consolidated before one judge for pretrial proceedings.
At least five different Prevagen claims have been filed against the manufacturer over false advertising, alleging the dietary supplement, which can cost up to $69 per bottle, is a fraud.
In December, several defendants filed a motion to transfer, asking the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to transfer the claims to the Southern District of New York as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation. Three of the five cases have already been filed in that court.
However, the JPML rejected a similar motion by the defendants filed in 2017. At the time, when there were only four complaints, the JPML indicated there were too few cases to justify formal consolidated pretrial proceedings.
In addition, the JPML indicated then that the claims presented in the Prevagen lawsuits are not sufficiently complex to require formal coordination as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
In this renewed motion, defendants argue that one advanced case expected to go to trial next week should be excluded from the consolidated proceedings, but indicate that the remaining five actions fit all of the requirements for consolidation, since they involve complex scientific questions and are complicated by their class action status.