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Dozens of plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits over cancers caused by Zantac are asking the U.S. District Judge presiding over the federal litigation to return their cases to California state court, where they originally brought the claims against drug manufacturers and local retailers for selling a heartburn drug that contained high levels of cancer-causing chemicals.
Zantac (ranitidine) was one of the most widely used heartburn treatments in the U.S. before it was removed from the market in late 2019, following the discovery that the active pharmaceutical ingredient is inherently unstable, and produces high levels of the chemical byproduct N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is a known human carcinogen.
With hundreds of Zantac lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the federal court system, consolidated pretrial proceedings were established last year before U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg in the Southern District of Florida, for coordinated discovery into common issues in the litigation and a series of early “bellwether” trials designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims.
In a motion (PDF) filed on January 15, a group of 41 plaintiffs asked Judge Rosenberg to return their case to California state court, indicating the defendants improperly removed the cases to the federal court system, where they have been transferred into the federal multi-district litigation (MDL), although they should have remained in the state court system.
“As set forth in their complaints, Plaintiffs are California citizens and originally filed their cases in California state court, naming at least one California Retailer Defendant and at least one Drug Company Defendant, thus complete diversity does not exist between the parties,” the motion states. “Notwithstanding this lack of complete diversity, the Drug Company Defendants removed the cases to federal court, claiming that the citizenship of the California Retailer Defendants should be ignored for jurisdictional purposes because of the heavily disfavored doctrine of fraudulent joinder. Under the doctrine, the Court can ignore the citizenship of the diversity-destroying California Retailer Defendants only if Drug Company Defendants prove, with clear and convincing evidence and all factual and legal uncertainties going against them, that it would be impossible to bring any claim against the California Retailer Defendants.”
The request comes as Judge Rosenberg is working with the parties to establish a schedule for coordinated discovery into common issues about the link between Zantac and cancer, and planning to consider challenges to the admissibility of plaintiffs’ expert witness testimony under the federal Daubert standard before selecting a small group of representative claims to go before juries in the coming years.
While there are currently about 550 cases consolidated before Judge Rosenberg, Zantac recall lawyers have registered tens of thousands of unfiled claims on a census established to help the court gauge the size and scope of the litigation.
Zantac and other generic ranitidine drugs were widely used by millions of Americans to prevent and relieve heartburn. However, all versions of the medication were pulled from the market after it was discovered the pills commonly contained extremely high and dangerous levels of NDMA, which has been linked to reports of former users developing prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer and other cancers.