Taxotere Eye Injury Lawsuits To Be Considered for MDL Consolidation

Lawsuits over Taxotere eye injuries have been filed in multiple U.S. District Courts, raising the risk of duplicative discovery into common issues and conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has scheduled oral arguments for later this month, to decide whether it will consolidate and centralize all Taxotere lawsuits filed over eye injuries experienced by breast cancer patients after receiving the chemotherapy drug.

Taxotere (docetaxel) injections were introduced by Sanofi-Aventis in May 1996, as a treatment of individuals with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. However, a growing number of lawsuits now allege that the drug maker failed to warn about the link between Taxotere and eye problems, which are not seen with other equally effective breast cancer treatments.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in at least a half-dozen complaints filed throughout the federal court system, plaintiffs filed a motion with the U.S. JPML last month, seeking to transfer the cases to one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings in either the Northern District of California, or the District of Arizona.

Known as an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, such consolidation is common in complex product liability claims, where large numbers of plaintiffs are pursuing lawsuits over similar injuries caused by the same medication.

The proposed Taxotere MDL would be separate from one previously established for hair loss lawsuits, which includes more than 12,000 claims that are centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, alleging that the drug maker provided false and misleading information that suggested hair would regrow after chemotherapy.

On December 23, Sanofi filed a response in opposition (PDF), arguing that the small number of Taxotere eye injury lawsuits currently pending does not warrant establishing a separate MDL. However, if one is created, the drug maker indicates that it should be assigned to the same judge presiding over the existing Taxotere hair loss claims.

“Should the Panel determine that the pending cases would benefit from centralized pretrial proceedings, Sanofi respectfully submits that those benefits would only be fully realized before Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in the Eastern District of Louisiana,” according to the filing. “As the Panel is aware, Judge Milazzo currently presides over In re Taxotere (Docetaxel) Products Liability Litigation (MDL 2740). Transfer of these cases to her would create significant efficiencies, which would benefit all litigants and better serve the orderly administration and resolution of the litigation.”

The U.S. JPML issued a Notice of Hearing Session (PDF) last month, announcing that it will hear oral arguments over the potential Taxotere eye injury lawsuit consolidation during a hearing session on for January 27, in the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. U.S. Courthouse in Miami, Florida.

If the cases are centralized, the MDL court would preside over discovery and pretrial proceedings in the litigation. However, if Taxotere settlements for eye injuries are not reached, or the litigation is not otherwise resolved, each individual case may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it originated for future trial dates.

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