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Michael Monheit
Michael Monheit
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Zofran Lawsuit Update: Plaintiffs Propose Sequence & Function Of Master Pleadings


On March 11, 2016, Plaintiffs submitted their proposal on the sequence and effect of “Master Pleadings.” A PDF copy of the proposal can be viewed at ZofranLegal.com.

A Short Guide To Master Pleadings In Multidistrict Litigation

Master Pleadings are documents created largely for administrative purposes, according to the American Association for Justice.

Generally, “Master Complaints” integrate the allegations and causes of action listed in individual lawsuits, gathering them together in a single document. In effect, the document is meant to set forth a comprehensive list of the reasons families have filed lawsuits and bring together all the relevant information supporting those causes of action. Defendants, likewise, will often file a “Master Answer,” responding to the allegations, and disputing factual claims, set forth in Plaintiffs Master Complaint.

Here’s how this process should proceed in the Zofran MDL, as proposed by Plaintiffs:

  1. Plaintiffs intend to file, and serve on GlaxoSmithKline, their Master Complaint no later than April 14, 2016.
  2. Plaintiffs will also serve on GlaxoSmithKline their proposed Short Form Complaint no later than April 14, 2016. They do not, however, intend to file the Short Form Complaint on that date.
  3. Plaintiffs request GlaxoSmithKline’s “suggested edits” to the Short Form Complaint by May 3, 2016.
  4. GlaxoSmithKline will file and serve its Master Answer to Plaintiffs’ Master Complaint by May 17, 2016. This Master Answer should be considered, Plaintiffs write, an answer to the individual Short Form Complaints as well. Absent Court Order or an agreement between the parties, GlaxoSmithKline won’t be obliged to file individual answers to each complaint.

In previous mass torts, however, disputes have arisen over what legal function Master Complaints are meant to play. Does the Master Complaint come to replace individual lawsuits? Does it stand beside them, no more or less important than individual complaints? Can Defendants file motions, like the motion to dismiss proposed by GlaxoSmithKline, and ultimately denied by the US District Court of Massachusetts, in January 2015, directly against the Master Complaint, potentially threatening every lawsuit with a single blow?

In a footnote to their proposed sequence, Plaintiffs suggest that GlaxoSmithKline intends to file another motion to dismiss:

“To date, it appears that GSK maintains its position that it can file yet another 12(b)(6) motion [a motion to dismiss the lawsuits, on the grounds that they’ve “failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted,” according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] in this litigation.”

But Glaxo shouldn’t be allowed to do so against the Master Complaint, Plaintiffs argue, citing a previous MDL, In re NuvaRing Prods. Liab Litig., No. 4:08MD1946 RWS, 2009 WL 4825170 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 11, 2009), in which a federal district court “refused to consider motions to dismiss Master Complaints.” Nor should Glaxo be given another opportunity to file a motion to dismiss, “a second bite at the apple,” they write. The company has already answered more than 30 individual complaints that have been consolidated in the MDL. If there were a “clear legal basis” to dismiss every lawsuit, one that could conceivably be leveled against the Master Complaint, Plaintiffs say, GlaxoSmithKline would not have answered any individual complaints.

Almost 150 Zofran Lawsuits Consolidated In Boston

On March 29, 2016, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued another Conditional Transfer Order, identifying three lawsuits, two filed initially in New Jersey and the other in the US District Court for Louisiana’s Western Division, that will be transferred to the Boston court in which more than 200 Zofran lawsuits have already been consolidated. The lawsuits to be transferred have been logged as case numbers 16-01460, 16-01470 and 16-00344 respectively. While the order is stayed for 7 days, the total number of consolidated lawsuits will likely rise to 146 as a result.

For more information on Zofran lawsuits, click here.


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