Zantac Lawsuit Court Appoints Special Master, Allows Direct Filing in MDL

Published on March 24, 2020 by Sandy Liebhard

Zantac lawsuits consolidated in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, continue to move forward, following the issuance of orders appointing a Special Master and allowing new claims to be filed directly in the multidistrict litigation.

Just under 200 Zantac lawsuits are pending in the Southern District of Florida. All of the cases were filed after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public that some samples of Zantac and generic ranitidine products had tested positive for high levels of Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) – a probable human carcinogen.  But considering the popularity of Zantac and other ranitidine-containing heartburn drugs, most legal experts believe the litigation will eventually grow to include hundreds – if not thousands – of similar claims.

The ongoing global pandemic of COVID-19 – the novel coronavirus – has already forced the federal Zantac litigation to postpone its Initial Conference indefinitely. However, the judge overseeing the proceeding has also indicated that work outside the courtroom should proceed to the greatest extent possible.

Authority of Zantac Special Master

In an Order dated March 20th, the Court named Professor Jaime Dodge, Director of the Institute for Complex Litigation and Mass Claims at Emory Law School, as the litigation’s Special Master. As such, Professor Dodge will have the authority to:

  • Meet separately and together with various groups to facilitate communications between and amongst the parties and the Court.
  • Encourage the submission of recommendations for procedures that will ensure the efficient management and administration of this litigation.
  • Provide recommendations to the Court as to the establishment of such practices and procedures.
  • Facilitate discussions between the parties, with the consent of the parties or as requested by the Court, with respect to the establishment of discovery procedures or protocols.

“Professor Dodge shall act only as a facilitator and shall not have the authority to issue reports and recommendations or orders on substantive issues of law, to decide discovery disputes, to conduct evidentiary hearings, or to impose sanctions,” the Order states.

Direct Filing of Zantac Lawsuits Will Eliminate Transfer Related Delays

A second Order issued that same day allows future plaintiffs to directly file Zantac lawsuits in the multidistrict litigation and establishes protocols for doing so via the Court’s electronic filing system. The direct filing of claims will eliminate the delays that occur when a new action must be transferred to the Southern District of Florida from another federal jurisdiction.

“The inclusion of any action in this MDL No. 2924, whether such action was or will be filed originally or directly in the Southern District of Florida, shall not constitute a determination by this Court that venue is proper in this district,” the new Order states. “Likewise, nothing in this Order shall be construed as a waiver of personal jurisdiction by any named Defendant, served or unserved.”

The parties had propose allowing direct filing of Zantac lawsuits in a Joint Statement filed with the Court early last week.

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