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As a growing number of individuals nationwide continue to file Zantac lawsuits, alleging they developed cancer from the widely used heartburn drug, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has scheduled oral arguments for next month to determine whether complaints brought throughout the federal court system should all be centralized before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Only a few weeks after most versions of Zantac were recalled from the market, due to cancer-causing chemicals found in various different versions of the heartburn drug, there are already at least 15 product liability and class action lawsuits pending in nine different federal court districts nationwide. However, as many as 45 cases may actually be filed already, according to manufacturers. In addition, as lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming weeks and months, it is widely expected that the Zantac litigation will involve thousands of claims nationwide.
Each of the complaints raise similar allegations, indicating that the active ingredient in Zantac, ranitidine, produces high levels of the known human carcinogen Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which plaintiffs indicated resulted in the development of bladder cancer, kidney cancer, colorectal cancer, stomach cancer and other forms of cancer along the digestive tract.
The litigation has rapidly emerged after a citizen’s petition was filed with the FDA in September 2019, which called for a Zantac recall to be issued, and described the active ingredient in the acid reducing drug as a human carcinogen.
To avoid duplicative discovery into common issues in the Zantac claims, prevent conflicting pretrial rulings and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system, a group of six plaintiffs filed a motion last month, which calls for the Zantac litigation to be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, as part of a federal MDL, or multi-district litigation.
In late November, a number of manufacturers filed a response with the JPML, indicating that they agree that the cases should be consolidated.
In a hearing order (PDF) issued on December 19, the JPML scheduled oral arguments to consider consolidation on January 30 at the Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse in Tampa, Florida.
If a Zantac MDL is established for the coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, it is expected that the Judge assigned to the litigation will establish a “bellwether” program, where a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and expert testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the claims.
While the outcome of such early trials will not be binding in other cases, they may help the parties reach Zantac settlements, avoiding the need for potentially hundreds or thousands of individual trials in courts throughout the U.S. federal court system.