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Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella Lawsuits Designated as Mass Tort in New Jersey

All lawsuits over Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella birth control in New Jersey state courts have been designated as a mass tort, and will be centralized under one judge for coordinated handling.

New Jersey’s Administrative Office of the Courts ordered on February 18 that the litigation will be assigned to Judge Brian R. Martinotti in Bergen County Superior Court. All pending and future New Jersey state court Yaz lawsuits, Yasmin lawsuits and Ocella lawsuits filed over Bayer’s popular birth control pills will be handled by Judge Martinotti, who will oversee the case management and trial issues.

The cases have been centralized to avoid duplication and to prevent conflicting rulings in different cases throughout the state. However, the cases are not consolidated and each will remain an individual action. In the future, Judge Martinotti may, at his discretion, return the cases back to the original county where they were filed for trial or resolution.

All of the lawsuits involve similar allegations that side effects of Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella increase the risk that women may suffer a stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, gallbladder disease or other injury. The plaintiffs claim that Bayer failed to adequately research the birth control pills or warn about the increased risks when compared to other available forms of oral birth control.

The request to centralize the Yaz birth control cases in New Jersey came from Assignment Judge Donald Volkert, Jr. in November. At that time there were 39 complaints in New Jersey courts throughout the state involving the popular birth control pills pending, with 13 in Volkert’s district of Passaic County. Some experts predict New Jersey courts could see as many as 1,000 Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella cases.

Similar coordination has been ordered for Yaz lawsuits pending in Pennsylvania state courts, and the federal Yaz litigation has been consolidated for pretrial proceedings in a multidistrict litigation (MDL), under Chief Judge David Herndon in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella are among the most widely used types of oral birth control pills. They all contain a combination of ethinyl estradiol with a new type of progestin, drospirenone, which can increase blood potassium levels and cause serious heart and health problems.

Yaz and Yasmin birth control are manufactured by Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals and Ocella birth control is a generic version that is marketed by Teva Pharmaceuticals.

According to an initial order for case management order issued by Judge Martinotti last week, the first conference has been scheduled for Monday, April 26. At the meeting, it is expected that the parties and the court will discuss procedures that will facilitate the resolution of the litigation. Prior to the conference, the parties will provide lists of witnesses expected to testify, the status of any settlement talks, and a list of any anticipated motions.

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