The federal court overseeing hundreds of Taxotere lawsuits involving permanent hair loss has issued a new Case Management Order scheduling the litigation’s first bellwether trial for September 2018. The Court has also ordered the parties to attend a settlement conference ahead of that trial.
There are at least 1,272 cases pending in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, all of which were filed on behalf of cancer survivors who allegedly experienced permanent alopecia due to the side effects associated with Taxotere chemotherapy. The litigation’s bellwether trials will serve as test cases, and could provide insight into how other juries will decide similar claims.
According to a Case Management Order dated July 21st, the first Taxotere bellwether trial will be convened on September 24, 2018 in the Eastern District of Louisiana. The parties have already submitted a list of 10 potential bellwether cases, all of which have original jurisdiction the Eastern District of Louisiana. All 10 Taxotere lawsuits will be subject to phased discovery, which will conclude on February 12, 2018.
“On February 16, 2018, the Court, after hearing from the parties, will select one Plaintiff (Primary Plaintiff) for the first trial date and the three alternative Plaintiffs will be ranked second, third and fourth,” the Order states. If the Primary Plaintiff’s case is dismissed for any reason, the next highest ranked Plaintiff will be set for the first trial date instead.”
Second-phase discovery for those four cases is to be completed by April 6, 2018. Expert depositions and discovery for use at the first trial is to be completed no later than July 22, 2018. A final Pretrial Conference is scheduled for Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 9:00 a.m.
The Order further stipulates that the parties will meet with a magistrate judge for a Taxotere settlement conference by June 29, 2018. They are to submit a Joint Confidential Status Report by July 6, 2018 in the event that a resolution is not reached by that date.
Taxotere is manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis and was approved to treat breast cancer by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996. The chemotherapy drug has since been approved to treat other cancers, including head and neck cancer, gastric cancer, prostate cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Although hair loss commonly occurs during chemotherapy, Taxotere lawsuit plaintiffs allege alopecia associated with its use is far more likely to be permanent compared to hair loss that accompanies treatment with alternative, equally effective chemotherapy medications.
Among other things, plaintiffs point out that the European medical community was informed of the potential for permanent hair loss in 2005, while the Canadian Taxotere label underwent a similar modification in 2012. However, mention of permanent alopecia was not included on the U.S. Taxotere label until December 2015.