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Michael Monheit
Michael Monheit
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GlaxoSmithKline & Plaintiffs Disagree On Consolidation Venue, As Zofran Lawsuits Grow


As Zofran birth defect lawsuits continue to mount, the potential for consolidation becomes more likely by the day.

Neither plaintiffs nor GlaxoSmithKline oppose the idea of transferring currently-filed Zofran claims to a single court. In fact, GlaxoSmithKline petitioned the US Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) itself on July 6, 2015. In a rare move for an embattled pharmaceutical manufacturer, the company argued that 12 lawsuits, all claiming the anti-nausea drug Zofran caused birth defects, should be consolidated in an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation.

If granted, GlaxoSmithKline’s request would send all Zofran claims filed in Federal courts to a single court, allowing for coordinated pretrial proceedings, including evidence gathering. After essential steps like Discovery are completed, the individual cases could be sent back to the courts in which they were originally filed.

If this MDL proceeds like many others, it is possible that settlement discussions could occur after a series of Bellwether trials take place. In any event, each plaintiff would be able to decide for themselves whether to proceed to trial or accept a settlement agreement, if one is offered.

Journey To A Zofran MDL: Plaintiffs & Glaxo Opposed On Appropriate Court

While plaintiffs have not contested the benefits of consolidation in general, they have opposed GlaxoSmithKline’s preferred consolidation venue: the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

GlaxoSmithKline has suggested two potential judges to manage the consolidated claims, the Honorable Cynthia M. Rufe or the Honorable Paul S. Diamond.

Plaintiffs Support MDL, Disagree On Pennsylvania Court

On July 28, 2015, a total of 19 plaintiffs filed individual briefs with the JPML in response to GlaxoSmithKline’s motion.

GlaxoSmithKline maintains a large headquarters in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, and argued in its initial brief that “a significant number of witnesses and relevant evidence are likely located within the District of Eastern Pennsylvania.” But plaintiffs warned that the court, and its close proximity to the company’s headquarters, could give GlaxoSmithKline a “home field advantage.”

As alternative venues, plaintiffs suggested:

  • the Northern District of Alabama,
  • the Northern District of Ohio,
  • the District of Massachusetts,
  • the Eastern District of Louisiana,
  • the Northern District of California or
  • the Southern District of Illinois,

all Federal courts in which Zofran lawsuits have actually been filed. As plaintiffs noted in their briefs, no current Zofran claims are filed in Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs also argued that the court in Pennsylvania is already overburdened by MDLs, with 9 current Multidistrict Litigations active.

Response From GlaxoSmithKline Doubles Down On PA Court

On August 5, 2015, GlaxoSmithKline shot back its official response, reaffirming the company’s choice of consolidation venue. Arguing again that the Pennsylvania court’s location would allow for easier evidence gathering from the company’s Philadelphia headquarters, GlaxoSmithKline quickly dismissed plaintiffs’ misgivings.

A copy of Glaxo’s reply brief can be found at Zofran.Monheit.com.

Zofran Litigation Continues To Grow

It remains to be seen whether or not the JPML will side with GlaxoSmithKline, opt for one of plaintiffs’ preferred courts, select another court location, or decide not to consolidate the Zofran claims at all. The Panel is scheduled to hold a hearing session on the issue in New York City on October 1, 2015.

But the recent volley of court filings has shed light on the current size of the Zofran litigation. When GlaxoSmithKline filed its initial motion to transfer two months ago, the company cited 12 Zofran birth defect lawsuits.

Most of these claims alleged that the anti-nausea drug, commonly prescribed as an “off label” morning sickness treatment, had caused a child’s congenital heart defects, although several claims were filed in relation to cleft palate.

In its most recent brief, GlaxoSmithKline notes that at least 33 Zofran birth defect lawsuits are currently pending in Federal Courts. Thus the litigation has more than doubled in two months.

According to court dockets, there are now:

  • 6 claims filed in Alabama
  • 1 claim filed in Arkansas
  • 2 claims filed in California
  • 1 claim filed in Delaware
  • 1 claim filed in Florida
  • 2 claims filed in Illinois
  • 3 claims filed in Louisiana
  • 4 claims filed in Massachusetts
  • 2 claims filed in Mississippi
  • 1 claim filed in Montana
  • 1 claim filed in New Jersey
  • 1 claim filed in New York
  • 1 claim filed in North Dakota
  • 5 claims filed in Ohio
  • 2 claims filed in Texas

More families may be eligible to file Zofran birth defect lawsuits. Any parent who was prescribed Zofran as an “off label” morning sickness treatment and then delivered a baby with congenital heart defects, cleft palate or other major birth defects may be able to bring a claim against the drug’s manufacturer.

Monheit Law has joined an alliance of distinguished plaintiffs’ attorneys to investigate potential claims against GlaxoSmithKline. Our lawyers offer a free consultation to any parent or birth defect survivor who believes that prenatal exposure to Zofran caused major birth defects.

For more information, call 1-877-620-8411 or visit our Zofran resource center.

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