Summary Judgment Sought in Xarelto Lawsuits Set for First Two Bellwether Trials

With the first Xarelto trials set to begin in March, the makers of the controversial anticoagulant have filed motions for summary judgement in two bellwether cases, seeking to dismiss failure to warn claims.

There are currently more than 15,000 Xarelto lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that the manufacturers withheld important information from consumers and the medical community about the bleeding risks, as well as the lack of an effective antidote to reverse the blood thinning effects of the drug.

Given the similar questions of fact and law involved in the claims, the litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon in the Eastern District of Louisiana, where a small group of cases have been prepared for a series of early “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims.

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The first Xarelto bellwether trial is scheduled to begin on March 13, 2017, involving a complaint filed on behalf of Joseph Boudreaux, Jr. That case will be followed by a second trial set to begin on April 24, involving a lawsuit filed on behalf of Joseph Orr, Jr. Each of those cases will go to trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, with additional cases expected to begin in the Southern District of Mississippi on May 30 and the Northern District of Texas later this year.

On January 20, the Defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment in the Boudreaux case (PDF) and a motion for partial summary judgment in the Orr case (PDF), arguing that the failure to warn claims should be barred, as a matter of Louisiana law, based on the “learned-intermediary doctrine”.

Based on testimony from the plaintiffs’ doctors, the drug makers argue that the claims for failure to warn should not be permitted to go forward, since the doctors indicated that they were aware of the potential Xarelto bleeding risks before the drug was prescribed. Therefore, the motion indicates the plaintiffs cannot argue that they would not have been prescribed Xarelto if stronger warnings had been provided.

Plaintiffs have not yet filed their responses to the motions for summary judgment.

Xarelto Bleeding Problems

Xarelto (rivaroxoaban) is a new-generation anticoagulant that was introduced in 2011 as an alternative for Coumadin (warfarin), which has been the go-to anticoagulant treatment for decades.

The drug is part of a new class of medications, which are have been promoted as easier to use than warfarin. However, since the drugs have hit the market, there have been a large number of reports involving severe and sometimes fatal bleeding problems with Xarelto and other members of this new class, including Pradaxa and Eliquis.

While all blood thinners may cause a bleeding injury, and the drug makers argue plaintiffs’ doctors were aware of the risk, the side effects of warfarin can be quickly reversed with a widely known antidote if bleeding occurs. However, there was no Xarelto reversal agent when the drug was introduced. Plaintiffs allege that the drug makers failed to adequately warn doctors about the lack of an antidote, which led to severe and uncontrollable bleeds.

Similar claims were raised in the litigation over Pradaxa, which was the first member of this class introduced in October 2010, one year before Xarelto hit the market.

More than 4,000 Pradaxa lawsuits were ultimately filed by users of that drug who suffered bleeding injuries. Following several years of litigation, the manufacturer of that medication ultimately agreed to pay $650 million in Pradaxa settlements just before the first bellwether trials were set to begin, with an average of about $150,000 per claim.

As Xarelto bleeding lawyers continue to review potential cases for individuals prescribed the anticoagulant throughout the United States, the number of complaints has surpassed the number of claims involved in the Pradaxa litigation, as the drug has become more widely used in recent years.

While the outcomes of these early bellwether trials are not binding on other cases, they will be closely watched by parties involved in the litigation. Following the trials, if Xarelto settlements or another resolution for the litigation is not reached, thousands of individual cases may be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate trial dates.

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