A federal judicial panel has opted to centralize two major products liability dockets, creating new multidistrict litigations for federally-filed Zofran birth defect claims and power morcellator lawsuits. The establishment of these new proceedings will promote judicial efficiency by allowing each docket to undergo coordinated pretrial proceedings.
The new Zofran multidistrict litigation was created by the JPML on October 13th. The proceeding will house all federal Zofran lawsuits that put forth similar allegations regarding the medication’s association with serious birth defects when used in early pregnancy. Among other things, plaintiffs claim that GlaxoSmithKline aggressively marketed Zofran as a safe and effective treatment for morning sickness, even though the drug has never been approved for this indication by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The company has also been accused of concealing information regarding the potential for Zofran to cause birth defects from doctors, patients and regulators.
The JPML’s October 13th Order initially transferred 12 Zofran lawsuits to the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts. However, more than 40 additional cases currently pending in federal courts around the country are likely to be transferred there as well, as will any Zofran birth defects filed in federal courts in the future.
In an Order issued on October 13th, the JPML transferred more than two dozen power morcellator lawsuits filed against Ethicon, Inc. to the U.S. District Court, District of Kansas. All of the transferred cases similarly allege that the company’s morcellator products promoted the spread and upstaging of undetected uterine cancers when used in minimally-invasive hysterectomies and myomectomies. Plaintiffs allege that defects in the design of Ethicon’s morcellators increase the likelihood that cancer cells will be disseminated beyond the uterus, and accuse the company of failing to warn doctors about this risk.
Since April 2014, the FDA has issued two public health alerts regarding the potential for uterine morcellation to spread undetected malignancies. Several other medical device companies, including Karl Storz, Richard Wolf Medical Instruments, and Gyrus ACM, have since been named as defendants in morcellator lawsuits. However, the JPML opted not to create an industry-wide litigation that would included all of these claims.