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Zantac Lawsuits Consolidated For Pretrial Proceedings in Federal Court System

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Given common questions of fact and law raised in a growing number of Zantac lawsuits being filed by former users diagnosed with cancer following use of the recalled heartburn drug, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has decided to consolidate and centralize the claims before one judge in Florida for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Several months after most versions of Zantac were removed from the market, due to cancer-causing chemicals found in various different versions of the widely used drug, there are already more than 140 product liability and class action lawsuits pending in two dozen different federal court districts nationwide. In addition, as Zantac recall lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming weeks and months, it is widely expected that the litigation will eventually 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). Following exposure to the chemical for extended periods of time, plaintiffs claim side effects of Zantac caused them to develop bladder cancer, kidney cancer, colorectal cancer, stomach cancer and other forms of cancer along the digestive tract.

The Zantac 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 indicating that the popular acid reducing drug should be considered a human carcinogen.

In November, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion calling for all Zantac cancer lawsuits to be centralized as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

Following oral arguments presented last month, the JPML issued a transfer order (PDF) this week, transferring claims pending throughout the federal court system to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, where the litigation will be overseen by U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg during coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

The panel noted that the cases all involve sufficiently similar questions, indicating that centralization will help avoid duplicative discovery, prevent scheduling conflicts and serve the convenience of common witnesses, parties and the judicial system. In addition, only one party involved in the litigation opposed centralization.

“These actions share factual questions arising from allegations that ranitidine, the active molecule in Zantac and similar heartburn medications, can form the carcinogen NDMA, either during storage or when metabolized in the human body,” the judges stated. “General causation issues, in particular, likely will be common across all the actions and would benefit greatly from coordinated treatment.”

With the establishment of coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, it is expected that Judge Rosenberg 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.

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