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Seresto Manufacturers Argue Pet Collar Poisoning Lawsuits Should Not Be Centralized in MDL

Although the makers of Seresto flea and tick collars face a growing number of class actions lawsuits filed in recent months over pet poisonings and death, Elanco Animal Health and Bayer Healthcare are urging a panel of federal judges to reject a recent request to centralize the cases before one U.S. District Judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

At least 12 Seresto pet collar poisoning lawsuits are currently pending in federal courts nationwide, and that number is expected to grow significantly in the coming months and years, amid the discovery that more than 75,000 adverse health reactions have been reported to federal regulators among humans and pets coming into contact with the flea and tick collars, including nearly 1,700 pet deaths.

Seresto flea collars are designed to release small amounts of pesticide onto the skin of cats and dogs for months at a time; to kill fleas, ticks and other pests. However, a report published earlier this year raised serious concerns about problems associated with the products.

To help manage the growing number of lawsuits being filed in courts nationwide, plaintiff Laura Revolinsky filed a Motion to Tranfser the Seresto pet collar litigation on April 27, asking the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to create consolidated pretrial proceedings before 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. However, on June 3, the defendants filed an opposition to centralization (PDF), arguing that formal centralization at this point is premature, with too few cases to make it necessary. The defendants’ claim informal coordination between the courts and parties would be more efficient.

“Defendants and a significant contingent of Plaintiffs have been discussing possibilities for informal coordination,” the motion states. “The discussions regarding informal coordination are ongoing, and , while the parties have not yet reached an agreement, formal centralization is premature until these discussions have run their course.”

The manufacturers maintain that if the Seresto pet collar poisoning cases are to be consolidated before one judge, they should not be transferred to New Jersey, but rather indicate that the centralization should be in the Southern District of Indiana or the Northern District of Illinois.

In April, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seeking to obtain information on thousands of Seresto collar problems reported by consumers nationwide. The Center says originally the EPA agreed to hand over the documents by the end of September 2020, but the documents never came.

The U.S. JPML is expected to consider oral arguments on the motion, including any response filed by the manufacturers, during a hearing this summer. The panel will then determine whether centralized management is appropriate at this early stage of the litigation, and the most appropriate forum for the pretrial proceedings.

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