Seresto Flea and Tick Collar Lawsuits Consolidated In Illinois MDL
Following thousands of reports involving pet poisonings and deaths, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has decided to consolidate all Seresto Flea and Tick collar lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, centralizing the claims before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
Bayer Healthcare and Elanco Animal Health face a growing number of product liability and class action lawsuits over Seresto pet collars, which have been found to release small amounts of toxic pesticides onto the skin of cats, dogs and owners.
The litigation emerged earlier this year, after it was discovered that more than 75,000 adverse health reactions have been reported to federal regulators among humans and pets coming into contact with the collars, including nearly 1,700 pet deaths.
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In April, a motion to consolidate the Seresto pet collar litigation was filed by plaintiffs, asking that cases brought in U.S. District Courts nationwide be transferred to one judge in New Jersey federal court, to avoid duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to preserve the resources of parties, witnesses and the courts.
Such coordination is common in complex product liability litigation, where a large number of claims have been presented by former users of the same product, alleging similar injuries.
While the manufacturers of the Seresto pet collar opposed the request, arguing that it is premature, and there are currently too few cases to make it necessary, following a hearing late last month the panel decided that it was appropriate to establish a Seresto pet collar MDL to manage the cases, which are expected to continue to grow in the coming months and years.
In a Transfer Order (PDF) issued on August 11, the JPML determined the litigation should be centralized under U.S. District Judge John R. Blakey in the Northern District of Illinois for pretrial proceedings.
The JPML noted defense counsel tried to assert during oral arguments held late last month that the cases did not share common questions of fact and law, saying the assertion was incorrect and made with little explanation.
“This litigation now encompasses sixteen related actions pending in ten districts, which allege similar, if not identical, claims and involve overlapping putative classes,” the JPML wrote. “Defendants have not pointed to any concrete potential for coordination or consolidation of these actions. Given the number of parties and counsel, as well as the wide geographic distribution of the actions, centralization is the most practicable means of coordinating the pretrial proceedings in this litigation.”
Now that the cases have been centralized as part of an MDL, it is likely the judge will establish a “bellwether” process, where a group of representative claims will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout other cases.
While the outcome for these early trials would not be binding on other plaintiffs, they may facilitate Seresto flea and tick collar settlements which would avoid the need for dozens, or possibly hundreds, of additional trials to be scheduled throughout the federal court system.
WayneSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:52 am
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