JPML Refuses to Vacate Order Transferring Taxotere Lawsuit to Federal Hair Loss Litigation in Louisiana

Published on October 6, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) continues to transfer Taxotere lawsuits to the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, where all federally-filed product liability claims involving the medication’s alleged association with permanent hair loss have been centralized for the purpose of coordinated pretrial proceedings.

According to an Order dated October 4th, the JPML has refused to vacate the conditional transfer of one such case, despite the plaintiff’s arguments that (1) federal subject matter jurisdiction is lacking; (2) plaintiff’s motion for remand to state court is pending; and (3) transfer would cause her undue delay.

The case was initially filed in Delaware state court, and later removed to the U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, before being conditionally transferred to the federal Taxotere litigation in Louisiana.

In refusing to vacate its conditional transfer order, the JPML noted that jurisdictional issues do not present an impediment to transfer, as plaintiffs can present their arguments to the transferee judge. The Panel also disputed that any resulting delay made transfer unwarranted, as such a transfer is appropriate if it furthers the expeditious resolution of the litigation as a whole.

Taxotere Permanent Alopecia Allegations

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.

More than 1,600 Taxotere lawsuits have been centralized in the multidistrict litigation now underway in the District of Louisiana. All of the pending cases were filed on behalf of cancer patients who allegedly experienced permanent alopecia (hair loss) following treatment with Taxotere. While hair loss is a typical side effect of chemotherapy, plaintiffs involved in the Taxotere litigation allege that alopecia associated its use is more likely to be permanent compared to hair loss that accompanies treatment with other, equally effective 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.

Why Were Taxotere Lawsuits Centralized in Louisiana?

The JPML established the federal Taxotere litigation in October 2016, initially transferring just 33 lawsuits to the Eastern District of Louisiana. The multidistrict litigation process allows cases of a similar nature to undergo coordinated discovery and other pretrial proceedings, and is intended to improve judicial efficiency by preventing duplicative proceedings, eliminating inconsistent court rulings, and preserving the resources of the courts, parties, and witnesses involved in the litigation.

The Eastern District of Louisiana is scheduled to convene its first trial involving a Taxotere lawsuit in January 28, 2019. As a bellwether trial, its outcome could provide insight into how other juries will decide similar Taxotere hair loss claims. The case will be followed by three additional bellwether trials, which are scheduled to be convened on April 8, 2019, July 15, 2019, and November 4, 2019

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