Category: Personal Injury

Over 1,400 Died in Aftermath of Hurricane Maria But Official Death Toll Remains at 64

By Andrew Emett

In a preliminary draft of a report to Congress, the government of Puerto Rico recently estimated that 1,427 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, instead of the official death toll that remains at 64 deceased. The government plans to update the official toll pending a scientific review scheduled to be released in a few weeks.

Titled “Transformation and Innovation in the Wake of Devastation,” the report requested $139 billion in recovery funds from Congress while acknowledging that 1,427 more people died between September and December 2017 compared with the same time frame in the previous four years. The report noted, “Although the official death count from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety was initially 64, the toll appears to be much higher.”

In another section, the report stated, “According to initial reports, 64 lives were lost. That estimate was later revised to 1,427.”

“This is not the official number of deaths attributable to Hurricane Maria,” Public Safety Department Secretary Héctor Pesquera said in a statement. “Once the study is released, the government of Puerto Rico will update the official number. We owe it to the people of Puerto Rico to have a precise number, along with the data we need to make better preparations for future disaster situations.”

Hired by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, George Washington University’s school of public health launched a scientific review to determine the new official number of deaths caused by Hurricane Maria last year. Three months overdue, their report is expected to be released by the end of the month.

In September 2017, the category 5 hurricane knocked out power and water across the island of Puerto Rico, which resulted in widespread flooding. Unable to power the hospitals or travel by roads marred with landslides, many people died from disease, lack of treatment, diabetes, sepsis, and lack of clean water.

During a recent interview with The New York Times, Prof. Alexis Santos, a demographer at Pennsylvania State University, observed, “The report requested by the government will be published one month before the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria. That is certainly not a quick response.”

On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to Twitter and wrote, “Tragically, the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria is far higher than the official count. The federal gov’t hasn’t done enough to assist or force accountability. I’ve called for a bipartisan commission to investigate the Trump Admin’s response.”

Journalist Files Lawsuit Against CenterPoint for Injuries Sustained During Hurricane Harvey

By Andrew Emett

Burned by live power lines and forced to cling to a tree for nearly 24 hours during Hurricane Harvey last year, a British journalist recently filed a lawsuit against CenterPoint Energy for negligently failing to shut off the power during severe flooding. While attempting to rescue trapped flood victims, four volunteers lost their lives due to the downed power lines.

Three days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Alan Butterfield, a reporter with Daily Mail who lives in Salt Lake City, and his photographer Ruaridh Connellan joined a group of five men volunteering to rescue a wheelchair-bound resident along Greens Bayou. A few minutes into their rescue mission, the men realized that their motorboat was heading toward sparking submerged power lines.

After the electricity shorted out their engine, the men were unable to turn the boat around as the current became too strong. Moving closer to the active power lines, the seven men jumped overboard in an attempt to escape.

According to Butterfield, his body was initially paralyzed by an electrical shock as he entered the floodwater. After grabbing onto a dingy attached to the motorboat, Butterfield, Connellan, and volunteer Jose Vizueth managed to reach a tree and hold onto the branches for nearly 24 hours.

“The water smelled putrid — like stagnant sewage, mixed with everything else,” Butterfield wrote in his account of the day after he was rescued. “There was heavy rain on us all night, and I was trying to catch drops in my mouth to get some water.”

The other four volunteers, Jorge Raul Perez, Yahir Rubio-Vizueth, Gustavo Rodriguez, and Benjamin Vizueth, did not survive. Their bodies were later discovered on the banks of Greens Bayou.

Suffering damage to the ligaments in his shoulder and receiving scars across his legs and stomach, Butterfield was hospitalized for a week in order to treat his burns and an infection caused by the polluted water. On Monday, he filed a lawsuit against CenterPoint Energy Inc. in the state district court in Houston, seeking more than $1 million in damages for negligently failing to shut off the power lines while rescue attempts were being made for trapped survivors.

“Given the re-occurrence of flooding in Houston,” his lawyer Muhammad Aziz said, “I think CenterPoint needs to come up with a solid plan and strategy for things like this in the future so people don’t get electrocuted.”

CenterPoint spokeswoman Alejandra Diaz said the utility would not comment.

In May, the family of Andrew Pasek filed a civil suit against CenterPoint, Antwine Electric, and TE Connectivity Corporation for a total of $1 million after Pasek was fatally electrocuted by a live wire during Hurricane Harvey last year. Pasek had been attempting to rescue his sister’s cat when he died.

Arkema Officials Charged with ‘Recklessly’ Releasing Chemicals During Harvey Flooding

flickr/Terry Hammonds
By Andrew Emett

Responsible for releasing a toxic cloud over a Texas community during Hurricane Harvey last year, Arkema North America, CEO Richard Rowe, and plant manager Leslie Comardelle were recently indicted for placing residents and first responders at risk of serious bodily injury. Although officials from the chemical company claim that their failsafe systems failed, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg accused the French-made major chemical manufacturer of placing profits over public safety along with a basic lack of preparation.

Due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey last year, floodwaters at Arkema’s chemical plant in Crosby knocked out the facility’s power which resulted in volatile chemicals bursting into flames. Unable to keep the organic peroxides refrigerated, Arkema officials released plumes of toxic smoke into the air as the chemicals caught on fire and partially exploded.

“Companies don’t make decisions, people do,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “Responsibility for pursuing profit over the health of innocent people rests with the leadership of Arkema.”

At least 21 first responders and other officials received injuries as they breathed in some of the fumes when arriving at the plant. Neighbors, first responders, and local government prosecutors have filed numerous lawsuits alleging that Arkema was negligent and failed to properly prepare for the storm.

“Indictments against corporations are rare,” Ogg noted. “Those who poison our environment will be prosecuted when the evidence justifies it.”

“It is outrageous to assert that Arkema or any of its employees behaved criminally. No one needs a reminder that Hurricane Harvey devastated a wide region,” Arkema spokeswoman Janet Smith recently stated. “It overcame the preparedness efforts of millions of individuals, and many, many companies and government agencies. It is hard to believe anyone would seek to criminalize the way in which one facility was impacted by such a crushing natural disaster.”

According to an investigation led by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the Arkema plant was ill-prepared for such severe flooding.

“As the hurricane approached, Arkema was more concerned about production and profit than people,” said Alexander Forrest, chief of the Environmental Crimes Division at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

On Friday, a grand jury indicted Arkema North America along with its CEO and a plant manager for “recklessly” releasing chemicals into the air. On Monday, Arkema CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle appeared in court to face the criminal charges against them.

If convicted, Rowe and Comardelle would each face up to five years in prison, while the company could be ordered to pay a $1 million fine.

Birth Injury Lawsuit Yields $26M for Deaf Child

By Emily Cox
Birth Injury
Flickr/Daniel Lobo

A New York jury returned with a $26 million verdict late last month for a medical malpractice lawsuit over allegations that a birth injury left a girl deaf and may have caused the death of her twin sister less than a month after their birth.

Danielle Madden-Buck filed the birth injury complaint. She claims the hospital’s negligence caused her to go into labor less than 30 weeks into her pregnancy. Consequently, her daughter, Aleigha Buck, was born deaf and mute along with a myriad of other health problems.

According to Madden-Buck, Maimonides Medical Center failed to provide her with proper pregnancy care when she started showing significant preterm labor signs only 21 weeks into her pregnancy. She went to the medical center multiple times due to painful cramping and abnormal discharge in February 2010. However, the hospital dismissed her symptoms and sent her home. Later, testing would reveal that her cervix was shortened.

Her daughter, Aleigha, is now seven years old. She was born later the same month the hospital kept turning her mother away. Because of her premature birth, she requires hearing aids and communicates through sign language. Her sister, Madelyn, died less than a month after their birth.

Following the month-long trial, a Brooklyn jury awarded the mother and daughter $20 million for future pain and suffering. They tacked on another $4 million for previous pain and suffering and $1.6 million in future lost wages. The verdict also allocated $500,000 for Madelyn Buck’s wrongful death.

Hospital officials maintain that the facility provided Madden-Buck and her unborn children with excellent care and indicate that the medical center disagrees with the jury’s verdict. However, the parties reached an agreement that set minimum and maximum limits on any resulting verdict. Consequently, the medical center cannot appeal the verdict.

Mesh Failure Leads to One Meshed-Up Situation

By Emily Cox
hernia mesh failure
That should hold ‘er in. If not, we’ll just add more – Sage advice for hernia repair. (Flickr/Jon Nicholls)

What to do when hernia mesh failure causes irreparable harm, leaving synthetic fragments of the mesh in surrounding tissues – Slap some more of that plastic in there and hope for the best, of course. At least that’s what doctors decided to do to address significant Physiomesh failures. They simply implanted a new defective mesh that continues to plague an Arkansas woman to this day.

According to a new lawsuit, Jo Ann Lax had the misfortune to not only receive Ethicon’s notoriously defective Physiomesh. But, when she experienced the increasingly common mesh failure associated with the product, doctors implanted her with Covidien Symbotex hernia mesh. Symbotex is a relatively new entry into the field of dangerous synthetic surgical mesh products. Consequently, reports of dangerous complications have only recently begun accumulating in significant numbers. However, it appears that it may be just as dangerous as Physiomesh, which has damaged countless lives beyond repair.

Lax filed the complaint this past week in New Jersey Superior Court. She indicates that Johnson & Johnson, its Ethicon unity, and Covidien knowingly sold dangerously defective hernia mesh products. As a result, she continues to suffer lifelong injuries that she will never be able to leave behind even if she ever manages to get the Symbotex mesh removed.

Hernia Mesh Failure Two-Fold

Introducing to the ring, the ultimate tag team – Physiomesh and Symbotex – guaranteed to put patients down for the count.

If these products had human counterparts, then they would probably be a WWE tag team…or at least should be. Alone, these products can inflict impressive damage on the human body. Together, the damage can be staggering.

In October 2014, seeking relief from an umbilical hernia, Lax unwittingly signed up for a medical nightmare when she agreed to receiving Physiomesh to repair her hernia. The mesh didn’t even last a year. By early 2015, Lax was already experiencing the crippling effects of mesh failure.

In May 2015, she underwent surgery again to remove the failed mesh from her body after only seven months. There is little doubt that there wasn’t anything “mere” about those seven months for Lax. The mesh had disconnected and torn from her body, leaving plastic mesh fragments in the surrounding tissue. Upon removing the toxic plastic remains of the Physiomesh from her body, surgeons elected to do the only logical thing – Implant more plastic to replace it!

In terms of dramatic results, Lax’s doctors certainly succeeded in spades but probably at the opposite end of the spectrum they were shooting for.  Unless, of course, continual abdominal pain and sores, accompanied by blisters and stinging sensations were among her treatment goals. Not to mention, the loss of her belly button, which is just the icing on this meshed-up cake. Despite the Covidien Symbotex Mesh failure, it remains inside Lax to this day, wreaking unimaginable havoc sight unseen.

A growing number of individuals echo Lax’s experiences with similar hernia mesh products. Increasingly, these individuals are taking various manufacturers to task for serious injuries. Manufacturers currently facing these substantial product liability claims include Ethicon, Covidien, C.R. Bard, and Atrium Medical.


Injured Patients Urged to Find Legal Representation Before $300M Benicar Settlement Deadline

By Emily Cox
Benicar Settlement Deadline
Flickr/Karoly Czifra

The door is quickly slamming shut on high blood pressure patients who suffered serious gastrointestinal injuries and indignities to participate in a recent Benicar settlement.

Benicar drug manufacturers and marketers have agreed to pay $300 million to settle the current multidistrict litigation (MDL). This substantial settlement doesn’t only apply to plaintiffs already in the MDL New claimants can still receive compensation in this settlement now…but the Benicar settlement deadline is fast approaching. In less than two weeks, this window will close, leaving injured individuals without any recourse for a very long time. The Benicar settlement deadline is August 23. All individuals who retain counsel after this will likely have to wait years to receive any resolution for their grievous injuries.

After spending the better half of 2017 trying to postpone and prevent critical scientific evidence from coming before the court, Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories have finally come to heel. Fortunately, there was a concession to unfiled claims. However, the Benicar deadline for filing a settlement claim is unsettling close.

Benicar Wrecked Havoc on Thousands

Overwhelmingly, patient reports indicate that olmesartan, which is in Azor, Tribenzor, and Benicar HCT, causes sprue-like enteropathy. The hallmarks of this chronic condition are nausea, chronic diarrhea, dehydration, and malnutrition. Despite FDA intervention to disclose gastrointestinal risks and the substantial settlement agreement, these drug makers and marketers continue to allege that their hypertension medication is perfectly safe.

Back in 2013, the FDA mandated new Benicar warning labels once the gastrointestinal risks became irrefutable. However, these warning came much too late for many Benicar patients. According to court documents, 1.9 million patients received a Benicar prescription in 2012 alone.

Benicar patients suffered up to 20 diarrhea attacks per day, leading to malnutrition and extreme weight loss. There are still others that suffered malnutrition complications like cataracts, infections, and even death.

Reports indicate that the manufacturers and marketers were fully aware of these risks. However, they hid them from the medical community and patients to protect their mutual financial interests. These companies were willing to sacrifice countless people to protect their bottom line.

Why Plaintiffs Need to Beat the Benicar Settlement Deadline

Plaintiffs need to retain representation in the litigation before August 23. After the Benicar settlement deadline, injured hypertension patients could wait for years to see any resolution. The current settlement was years and thousands of claims in the making. It will likely take a similar show of force to produce another settlement agreement. Nationwide lawyers are urging Benicar victims to take their rightful place in claiming retribution for the harm the drug manufacturers have caused. Because it will be a long while before these corrupt companies extend such offers again.

Despite thousands of reports of serious Benicar gastrointestinal issues, FDA concerns, and thousands of lawsuits, these companies indicate that they will continue to sell Benicar, endangering patients and profiting off their suffering. Consequently, there’s no doubt that Daiichi and Forest will end up in this position again, but it will take years for another litigation to amass the strength to force a settlement again.



Mesh Mass Tort Could be in Big Trouble

By Emily Cox
Mesh Mass Tort
Justice is blind, and Big Pharma is making sure it stays that way. (Flickr/Valerie Everett)

Big Pharma wasted no time in applying a new landmark Supreme Court ruling limiting personal jurisdiction to undermine numerous important mass torts that are endeavoring to take these companies to task for causing widespread, unspeakable harm with their bottomless greed and negligence. Now, it has the pelvic mesh litigation in its crosshairs. The judge overseeing the pelvic mesh mass tort in Philadelphia has agreed to revisit the state court’s jurisdiction over numerous cases pending there.

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Arnold New granted Johnson & Johnson’s motion on the matter earlier this month. J&J is seeking to strike 91 cases from the mass tort program, citing the Supreme Court’s game-changing Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) decision. This is the first time Big Pharma has used Bristol-Myers to target a Philadelphia mass tort program. But, if J&J succeeds, it will surely not be the last. It could very well be open season on out-of-state plaintiffs.

Mass Tort Jurisdiction Ruling

In its 8-1 June ruling, the Supreme Court severely restricted access to plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions. The High Court determined that plaintiffs must meet specific criteria to file product liability lawsuits out-of-state. Nonresidents now need to have been injured, received treatment, or received the product itself in the state to participate in mass torts in plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions. If plaintiffs don’t meet these criteria, then defendants need to be “at home” in the state or have conducted business in direct connection to the defective product. However, most of these companies avoid these connections to plaintiff-friendly states for this very reason.

The ruling decimates many state-level provisions that helped level the playing field between injured individuals and corporations with unfathomable resources. These provisions allowed out-of-state plaintiffs to attach claims to residents’ lawsuits if they suffered similar injuries and the defendants had a nationwide presence.

Consequently, the ruling could scatter and shrink mass torts. Many plaintiffs will have no option but to engage these powerful defendants on their home turf. These may be the only courts with enough plaintiffs to effectively pool resources to stand against these global conglomerates. Otherwise, they will have to go into battle alone or with a much-diminished arsenal to pursue claims at home.

Shock waves from the ruling hit the St. Louis talcum powder litigation against Johnson & Johnson first, resulting in a mistrial within mere hours of the decision. Bayer quickly followed suit to toss all but eight claims from an Essure lawsuit involving more than a hundred women. These women allege that the birth control device caused chronic pain, severe injuries, hysterectomy, and even death.

Now, J&J has turned its sights on women who have suffered debilitating complications from pelvic mesh implants, including mesh erosion, organ perforation, chronic pain, incontinence, chronic infections, adhesions, scarring, and more.

Is the Philadelphia Mass Tort in Jeopardy?

New issued the six-page order August 1. It vacated a March 2015 ruling that found Philadelphia had jurisdiction over the pelvic mesh cases. He called for parties to submit more briefings on the issue to the court over the next month.

According the order, the pelvic mesh mass tort program is helping injured women from all corners of the country seek justice for egregious injuries caused by J&J’s Ethicon unit’s dangerously defective vaginal mesh. J&J and Ethicon have their primary places of business in New Jersey. This makes the litigation a prime candidate for Big Pharma to invoke the BMS ruling.

The pelvic mesh mass tort grew seven percent this past year, climbing from 164 to 176 women. Despite almost incomprehensible injuries and continual pain, these women have somehow found the strength to fight for what’s right. However, BMS could wipe out more than 50 percent of these claims from the face of the litigation. Furthermore, it would set a dangerous precedent for the entirely of Philadelphia’s mass tort program.

Allegedly, J&J and Ethicon knew their pelvic mesh products were exceptionally dangerous but continued to market the devices anyway for financial gain. They sentenced these women  to a lifetime of pain, while continuing to feast on device profits. Now, they want to walk out on the bill for the lives they ruined with their insatiable appetites. And, the Supreme Court may have handed them the means to do so.

And, given trial verdicts in Philadelphia so far, the companies certainly have plenty of motivation to limit their liability. So far, Philadelphia juries have returned with four out of five plaintiff verdicts with damages totaling almost $50 million. Also, Judge New recently decided to revisit the one defensive victory in a damages hearing, ruling that the jury’s verdict was contradictory.

$775M Pelvic Mesh Settlement Reached to Resolve U.S. Claims

By Emily Cox
mesh settlement
All the blood money in the world won’t undue the irreparable harm caused by pelvic mesh (Flickr/Damian Gadal)

Endo International PLC has agreed to a pelvic mesh settlement to resolve “virtually all known” U.S. vaginal mesh lawsuits over its American Medical Systems (AMS) unit’s defective devices.

The company announced the pelvic mesh settlement earlier this week. It indicated that it would reserve an additional $775 million to settle remaining U.S. claims. This brings Endo’s total bill for the dangerously defective devices to $2.6 billion to cover transvaginal mesh settlements.

Paul Campanelli, Endo’s President and Chief Executive Officer, indicated that he believed that this should put the U.S. litigation against AMS to rest.

“We believe it is a very important milestone for Endo to have reached agreements to resolve virtually all known U.S. mesh product liability claims,” Campanelli said.  “While it remains possible that additional claims will be filed, we believe today’s announcement will assist most mesh claimants to move forward with their lives and will permit Endo to move forward with an even greater focus on executing against our core strategic priorities,” he added.

According to the new agreements, Endo will begin making payment installments in 2017’s fourth quarter. These payments will continue through the fourth quarter of 2019.

The pelvic mesh settlement will cover approximately 22,000 U.S. pelvic mesh lawsuits pending against American Medical Systems. Plaintiffs are claiming horrifying injuries and serious complications from the devices eroding into the vaginal wall. Most of these claims are pending in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Southern District of West Virginia.

Behind the Pelvic Mesh Settlement

As far as Endo is concerned, this pelvic mesh settlement resolves the damage that it has caused. However, for the tens of thousands of women that the company sentenced to a lifetime of unspeakable pain and irreparable damage, the matter will never be truly resolved. For many, there is no dollar amount that could ever make this right.

Vaginal mesh products were once largely the surgical treatment of choice to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. However, since 2008, the FDA has issued several alarming public health alerts. The agency has repeatedly detailed life-altering complications from the implants. These debilitating complications include mesh erosion, organ perforation, chronic pain, incontinence, chronic infections, adhesions, scarring, and more.

Finally, in 2011, the FDA declared that serious complications from vaginal mesh products were not rare. Furthermore, the agency indicated that there was little evidence that pelvic mesh offered any additional benefits over traditional non-mesh prolapse repair. Consequently, these women were saddled with unending agony for no reason further than to line device manufacturers’ coffers.

In 2016, the FDA finalized new regulations regarding these dangerous devices. Among other things, the agency reclassified pelvic mesh as a high-risk medical device. The FDA also barred the devices from its 510(k) clearance program. Previously, these devices could come to market without undergoing human clinical trials first. So, women seeking help were used as guinea pigs instead.

Pelvic Mesh Settlement Litigation

While most AMS cases will soon reach resolution as far as the court is concerned, the overall transvaginal mesh litigation is far from over. Johnson & Johnson and its Ethicon unit still face around 55,000 vaginal mesh claims pending nationwide. In fact, the companies are currently embroiled in their sixth Philadelphia trial over their vaginal mesh literally mangling a woman’s urethra. So far, Philadelphia juries have returned with four out of five plaintiff verdicts with damages totaling almost $50 million.

Other device manufacturers involved in this massive litigation include C.R. Bard, Inc, Cook Medical, Inc, Boston Scientific Corp., Coloplast Corp., and Neomedic.





Benicar Patients Can Still File Claims for $300M Settlement

By Emily Cox
Benicar Patients
The clock is ticking for Benicar patients to participate in settlement. (Flickr/frankieleon)

The $300 million Benicar settlement was announced this past week, but it’s not too late for Benicar patients to file claims and participate in the settlement. However, the window to file is steadily sliding shut. Benicar patients have only two more weeks to retain counsel if they want a piece of the hefty settlement to atone for grievous gastrointestinal issues from the controversial blood pressure medication.

Parties in the high-profile Benicar multidistrict litigation (MDL) reached a settlement agreement August 1, following months of the drug manufacturers and marketers dragging their feet to delay the looming Daubert hearings. Daubert hearings determine the admissibility of expert witnesses. Depending on expert witness testimony, these hearings could have turned the court of public opinion against Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories before the companies ever went before a jury.

According to the settlement, the $300 million fund will not be paid out until 95 percent of all MDL members opt-in to the settlement under various terms. But, it’s not too late to still file a claim. Benicar patients who suffered significant gastrointestinal problems while on the hypertension medication can still participate in the settlement. However, they need to have a retainer in place with a qualified attorney by August 23. In two short weeks, the window for this opportunity slams shut.

Drug Companies Show Little Empathy For Benicar Patients Suffering Enteropathy

Daiichi and Forest may have agreed to the Benicar settlement to resolve state and federal lawsuits. However, they never admitted liability for any wrongdoing. Even in the face of thousands of patients who suffered egregious harm from Benicar, they continue to maintain that the claims have no merit. Furthermore, Daiichi even admits that the settlement has little material impact on the companies that harmed so many. Insurance proceeds are primarily funding the $300 million settlement. Company funds will only supplement shortfalls. Consequently, Daiichi and Forest will go on their merry way, continuing to market Benicar (olmesartan) as an effective blood pressure medication, while downplaying its substantial risks.

Benicar patients allege that olmesartan, which is in Azor, Tribenzor, and Benicar HCT, causes sprue-like enteropathy. The hallmarks of this chronic condition are nausea, chronic diarrhea, dehydration, and malnutrition. Benicar patients suffered up to 20 diarrhea attacks per day, leading to malnutrition and extreme weight loss. There are still others that suffered malnutrition complications like cataracts and infections. Some patients even died from these serious issues and complications. Even the FDA indicates that the association between olmesartan and sprue-like enteropathy goes far beyond mere speculation.

In 2013, the FDA mandated a Benicar warning label to address the drug’s irrefutable gastrointestinal risks. However, these warnings came too late for many Benicar patients. According to court documents, 1.9 million patients received a Benicar prescription in 2012 alone. These Benicar patients suffered, while Daiichi and Forest gleefully raked in the profits. It will be some time before these companies will offer financial restitution again for the harm they have caused. Consequently, experts are urging Benicar patients to file as soon as possible to receive compensation for their injuries.

PPI Lawsuits Over Kidney Injuries Granted Centralized Litigation

By Emily Cox
PPI Lawsuits
Flickr/Will Culpepper

The Judicial Panel on Centralized Litigation (JPML) has determined that the size and scope of PPI lawsuits against the makers of Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, and other proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) qualifies the litigation for centralization before one New Jersey federal judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

Currently, there are at least 161 PPI lawsuits pending in 28 different district courts. These lawsuits allege that Pfizer, Teva Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, and other heartburn drug makers knew PPIs caused kidney damage and concealed the risks. Plaintiffs claim these drugs caused kidney failure, chronic kidney failure, and acute interstitial nephritis, among other forms of kidney damage.

The JPML rejected a previous request to centralize PPI lawsuits in February. The panel indicated that there were too few cases involving too many different drug manufacturers to justify establishing a multidistrict litigation (MDL) to coordinate discovery and pretrial proceedings.

However, as the litigation has continued to swell, plaintiffs filed a second request for consolidation in May. Consequently, the JPML heard oral arguments for the request late last month.

Drug makers originally fought consolidation. However, as PPI lawsuits continued to flood the federal court system, both sides agreed that centralization was necessary for judicial efficiency. The MDL will reduce duplicate discovery and conflicting rulings from different courts. Consequently, all parties save time and money.

PPI Lawsuits Centralization Order

The JPML issued the transfer order this past week. The judicial panel centralized all of the PPI lawsuits before District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in the District of New Jersey.

“In support of this new motion, plaintiffs, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer argue that the number of involved actions, districts, and plaintiffs’ counsel has increased significantly since Proton-Pump I, that many more cases likely will be filed, that there are now a significant number of related state court actions, and that informal coordination and cooperation are not practicable to manage litigation of this scope,” the JPML wrote.  “After careful review of the record, we agree with this assessment.”

The PPI lawsuits indicate that the heartburn drug makers hid the significant dangers of Nexium, Prilosec, and other PPIs. Boundless reports have linked these seemingly benign medications to life-threatening kidney injuries. These injuries include renal failure, chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, acute interstitial nephritis, and other substantial injuries.

Given the popularity and over-the-counter availability of these dangerous medications, this litigation could reach astronomical proportions.

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