A federal judge in Florida has designated 40 Abilify gambling lawsuits as possible candidates for a second round of bellwether trials.
According to an Order issued on August 8th in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, plaintiffs and defendants were each given 15 days to strike 5 of those cases (for a total of 10). Plaintiffs Fact Sheets for the 30 remaining cases must be submitted by October 12th.
The pool will be reduced to 20 by December 14th, with each side again striking 5 Abilify cases. The remaining 20 lawsuits will undergo a “reasonable scope” of fact discovery before the parties each choose 5 cases for a final trial pool. Replacements for any of the cases removed from the final trial pool will be randomly selected by the Court.
“The Court is continuing to consider the possibility of consolidating some number of cases for trial and trying the remaining cases individually,” the Order concludes. “At this time, the Court is leaning towards conducting a consolidated trial. However, before making a final decision on consolidation, the Court will allow briefing on the issue and, if applicable, on the question of which specific cases will be consolidated.”
Abilify (aripiprazole) is an atypical antipsychotic medication approved for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorders. The drug affects the brain’s serotonin and dopamine receptors. Among other things, dopamine plays a vital role in pleasure seeking and motivation. People with high levels of dopamine are more likely to experience compulsive behaviors.
In May 2016, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ordered that new warnings be added to the labels for all aripiprazole-containing medications, after a review of the agency’s adverse event database revealed more than 184 reports of impulse control disorders potentially associated with their use. All but 20 of those reports involved gambling addictions.
Most of the aripiprazole patients who experienced compulsive urges had no prior history of impulse control disorders prior to beginning treatment. The majority also reported that their compulsive urges subsided when treatment ended or dosage was decreased.
There are currently more than 1,600 product liability lawsuits pending in the Northern District of Florida, where all federally-claims involving Abilify’s alleged link to gambling addictions have been centralized for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Verdicts in the litigation’s bellwether trials could provide insight into how other juries might decide similar claims.
The litigation was set to begin a series of three Abilify bellwether trials in June. However, e Court stayed proceedings in those specific cases after the parties disclosed that they had agreed to settle the lawsuits.
Then, on May 8th, the Court issued an Order giving the parties until September to finalize a global settlement that could resolve the majority of pending cases. Per the Order, plaintiffs and defendants were to establish criteria for “no pay” cases – those not eligible for compensation – and identify such cases for removal from the litigation.
Once the no-pay cases were identified, the parties were to begin work with the Settlement Master to structure a mediation process for the remaining Abilify lawsuits.