Organizational Structure Set for Plaintiffs’ Lawyers in Lipitor Lawsuits

A group of plaintiffs’ lawyers have been appointed to serve in various leadership roles in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) established for all Lipitor diabetes lawsuits brought against Pfizer by women throughout the U.S. who allege that inadequate warnings were provided about the side effects of the blockbuster cholesterol drug.

In February, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated proceedings in the federal court system for all product liability lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country over the failure to warn women about Lipitor diabetes side effects, centralizing all cases before U.S. District Judge Richard K. Gergel in South Carolina.

Pfizer currently faces several hundred Lipitor lawsuits, which all involve similar allegations that the drug maker failed to provide adequate warnings for women and the medical community about the risk of developing diabetes as a result of using the popular cholesterol drug. However, it is ultimately expected that several thousand cases will be included in the litigation as Lipitor injury lawyers continue to review and file additional cases.

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Centralizing the cases is designed to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts. As part of the coordinated proceedings, lawyers involved in the cases met with Judge Gergel on March 27, to review the organization and structure of the Lipitor litigation.

Following that meeting, a case management order (PDF) was issued by Judge Gergel on April 8, appointing a group of 16 different lawyers representing women in the litigation to serve on a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC), and four attorneys to serve on an executive committee. He also appointed a Plaintiffs’ Lead Counsel and Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel as well.

The PSC will be responsible for conducting common discovery in the litigation, presenting the position of all plaintiffs to the Court and Pfizer, as well as entering into any stipulations or settlement agreements as necessary during pretrial proceedings. The Lead Counsel and Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee will be responsible for coordinating and overseeing the activities of the Plaintiffs during the Lipitor Litigation, and the Plaintiffs Liaison Counsel will receive notices and orders of the Court on behalf of all Plaintiffs and make documents available to all attorneys involved in the Lipitor Litigation.

Lipitor Diabetes Lawsuit Allegations

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.

All of the cases involve similar claims 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.

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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