Multicounty Litigation (MCL) Sought for Taxotere Lawsuits in New Jersey

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As a growing number of Taxotere lawsuits continue to be filed in New Jersey state court, each involving similar allegations that women were left with permanent and disfiguring hair loss following use of the chemotherapy drug for treatment of breast cancer, a request has been filed to centralize the claims before one judge, as part of a Multicounty Litigation, or MCL.

More than 350 complaints over Taxotere hair loss have been filed against Sanofi-Aventis in New Jersey, where the French pharmaceutical company’s U.S. headquarters are located.

Although hair loss, or alopecia, is a known and expected side effect of chemotherapy, Sanofi-Aventis allegedly led women to believe that hair would regrow following treatment with their high potency Taxane-based drug, which has not been the case for many women.

Lawsuits allege that other, equally effective breast cancer treatments were already available, which did not carry the same risk of permanent hair problems, yet the drug maker promoted use of their more toxic drug, without warning about reports and studies that show many women fail to regrow hair following treatment.

According to a notice to the bar (PDF) issued on April 11, by Glenn A. Grant, the Acting Administrative Director of the New Jersey Courts, the state Supreme Court is considering an application to transfer cases filed throughout the state to one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

The request was submitted by a group of plaintiffs on March 13, seeking to centralize the Taxotere litigation before Judge James F. Hyland in Middlesex County, where about 333 of the 353 cases filed in the state are currently pending.

In addition to the state court litigation, Sanofi-Aventis currently faces more than 7,800 Taxotere cases pending in the federal court system, which are centralized as part of a federal Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) before U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt in the Eastern District of Louisiana, where a small group of “bellwether” cases are being prepared for early trial dates later this year.

Last month, Judge Engelhardt identified four lawsuits over Taxotere hair loss that will be eligible for a trial date on September 24, which is designed to help gauge how juries will respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

Although the outcome of the bellwether trials will not be binding on other plaintiffs, they may help the parties negotiate Taxotere settlements that would help avoid the need for hundreds of individual cases to go before juries nationwide.

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