Levaquin Lawsuit Court Delays Decision on California Remand Motion

Published on August 9, 2016 by Sandy Liebhard

The federal court overseeing hundreds of peripheral neuropathy lawsuits involving Levaquin and other fluoroquinolone antibiotics has declined to rule on a remand motion filed by a group of California plaintiffs. According to an August 5th Order issued in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, the judge presiding over the centralized proceeding deferred his decision until he can review information underlying the plaintiffs’ pleadings against McKesson Corp., a California-based pharmaceutical distributor.

Is McKesson a Proper Defendant?

According to HarrisMartin.com,  the four near-identical lawsuits were filed on behalf of California residents who allegedly developed peripheral neuropathy due to their use of Levaquin, Cipro and various generic fluoroquinolones. All of the claims lodged against McKesson are predicated on the “information and belief” that it distributed the antibiotics used by these individuals.

In addition to McKesson, the complaints name Bayer, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals as defendants. None of those pharmaceutical companies are based in California.

The four cases were initially filed in California Superior Court, and later removed to the U.S. District Court, Norther District of California, before being transferred to the multidistrict litigation. Plaintiffs then moved to remand on the basis of nondiverse jurisdiction, since McKesson is based in California. While defendants did acknowledge that McKesson’s locale in California would defeat diversity jurisdiction, they asked the Court to delay its decision until more information is available, or to deny the motion based on the fraudulent rejoinder doctrine. In doing so, the defendants asserted that there is no reasonable basis for a claim against McKesson, and that the plaintiffs do not legitimately intend to pursue their claims.

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim ultimately opted for a delay.

“The Court makes this decision in the interests of judicial economy and in light of the purpose of MDLs — ‘coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings’ for cases ‘involving one or more common questions of fact’ in order to ‘promote the just and efficient conduct of such actions,’” he wrote.

The August 5th decision notes that  the defendants should have submitted enough information at this point to determine whether McKesson is a proper defendant or not. As such, Judge Tunheim has directed the parties to file briefs addressing, among other things, how that information would affect the motion for remand. He further stipulated that the briefs be submitted to the Court within seven days of the date of the Order.

 The Fluoroquinolone Litigation

Court documents indicate that more than 380 product liability claims have been filed in the District of Minnesota against the manufacturers of fluoroquinolone antibiotics, including Levaquin, Cipro and Avelox. All of the lawsuits claim that the drugs’ makers concealed the true nature of the nerve damage risk associated with the use of fluoroquinolones, and failed to provide doctors and patients with adequate warnings regarding this potentially debilitating side effect.

Mention of peripheral neuropathy was added to the labels for fluoroquinolone antibiotics in 2004. But in 2013, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the drugs’ manufacturers to strengthen the labels in order to better reflect the rapid onset of symptoms, as well as the potential for permanent nerve damage.

In May of this year, the FDA ordered additional label modifications – including an updated boxed warning – after a review confirmed that Levaquin and other fluoroquinolones were associated a number of serious side effects, including those involving the tendons, muscles, joints, nerves and central nervous system. These complications are potentially permanent and can occur together, the agency said.

Shortly after the FDA announced the most recent labeling changes, Judge Tunheim granted federal fluoroquinolone plaintiffs leave to amend their complaints to reflect this information.

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