Photo of Rachel B. Weil

Regular blog readers may recall that, every year, we eagerly await a Monday and Tuesday right around February 14th.  This has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day (though we like a dozen roses and a box of chocolates as much as the next person.)  No, at this time every year (for the past eighteen or so) we cross our fingers that there is no blizzard, beg everyone in our work life to cover any emergencies, and head to New York for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.  This year was the 141st annual show, and, as always, it was a mecca for all things dog.  As we ate breakfast in our hotel, we were visited by Mobius, a red Doberman so tall he had to lean down to attempt to taste our complimentary make-it-ourselves waffle.  To board the shuttle from the Hotel Pennsylvania (worthy of its own post) to Piers 92 and 94 for the daytime breed judging, we had to step over “Sky,” a 140-pound Greater Swiss Mountain Dog sprawled in the aisle of the bus, calmly oblivious to accidental bumps and kicks and happily kissing anyone who asked.  We live for this stuff, even if our chosen favorite almost never wins.

For the atmosphere is rarified. A few years ago, the show stopped being “champions only” and admitted “class dogs” – dogs still working their way through point-earning breed classes to achieve their championships – for the first time.  But, save for the infrequent upset, the group competition (the televised portion, in which the single winner of each breed competes against the winners from the other breeds in its “group” – sporting, herding, toy, etc.) is dominated by the very top-winning show dogs in the country.  Last year, we fell in love with a gorgeous German Shepherd Dog named Rumor.  She was a heavy favorite to win it all (“Best in Show”), but was upset by C.J. the German Shorthaired Pointer and settled for Reserve Best – second place.  And she retired, to raise beautiful puppies and live the life of a cherished house pet.

But, alas, said puppies did not get made on the first attempt. And, come January, Rumor’s owner/handler decided to give her one more shot at the big one.  So she “came back out,” showed at ten shows in January, and took one more run at the Garden.  And, this time, after upsetting the favorite, Preston the Puli, to take the Herding Group, she won it all.  It was very, very cool to witness.  And we already can’t wait ‘til next year.

And there was a blog-worthy lesson to be gleaned from it all (at least if you stretch a little): if you haven’t achieved everything you want, think about taking another shot.  And H.R. 985, a bill that passed the House Judiciary Committee this week, would pick up where CAFA left off (and then some) to correct still-rampant abuse of the system by class action and MDL plaintiff lawyers, to the detriment of our clients, the judicial system as a whole, and all too often, to the plaintiffs the lawyers ostensibly represent.

Under “Purposes,” the bill states: “The purposes of this act are to – (1) assure fair and prompt recoveries for class members and multidistrict litigation plaintiffs with legitimate claims; (2) diminish abuses in class action and mass tort litigation that are undermining the integrity of the U.S. legal system; and (3) restore the intent of the framers of the United States Constitution by ensuring Federal court consideration of interstate controversies of national importance consistent with diversity jurisdiction principles.”  Worthy goals all, if a trifle ambitious. The bill’s key points read like a set of nesting boxes – just when you think you’ve opened the last, there is another present inside.  Here are some highlights:

Class Actions

  • Injury allegations: this provision requires a court to deny certification unless “the party seeking to maintain such a class action affirmatively demonstrates that each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative.” This is ascertainability something for which we’ve advocated, and also something that our side tried unsuccessfully to get fixed through the Federal Rules Committee. Thus, the judiciary had its chance to fix this. Nothing happened, so now Congress is poised to step in. About time.
  • Conflicts of interest: this provision requires class counsel to state, in the body of the complaint, “whether any proposed class representative or named plaintiff in the complaint is a relative of, is a present or former employee of, is a present or former client of (other than with respect to the class action) or has any contractual relationship with . . . class counsel” and shall “describe the circumstances under which each class representative or named plaintiff agreed to be included in the complaint and shall identify any other class action in which any proposed class representative or named plaintiff has a similar role.”
  • Attorneys’ fees: “[N]o attorneys’ fees may be . . . paid . . . until the distribution of any monetary recovery to class members has been completed,” and “[u]nless otherwise specified by Federal statute, . . . the portion of any attorneys’ fee award to class counsel . . . shall be limited to a reasonable percentage of any payments directly distributed to and received by class members [and in] no event shall the attorneys’ fee award exceed the total amount of money distributed to and received by all class members.” We particularly like this because it would effectively put an end to cy pres, against which we’ve railed for years. By limiting the denominator for fee awards to “payments directly distributed to and received by class members” it prevents cy pres sums from being used to inflate fee awards.

There are other provisions, requiring stringent accounting provisions for settlement funds forbidding certification of issue classes unless all relevant Rule 23 prerequisites are satisfied (another thing our side tried first to fix through a change to Rule 23), and most significantly providing for severance of misjoined plaintiffs for purposes of jurisdictional determinations. This legislative elimination of fraudulent misjoinder is a key point, since it addresses the multi-plaintiff complaints we love to hate.

We note that since the “effective date” of this act provides for its application to all “pending” civil actions, cases currently in state court can be removed (or removed again) under the provision negating misjoinder as a means of preventing diversity-based removal to federal court.

Finally, in an issue close to our hearts as we daily encounter plaintiffs unwittingly victimized by so-called “litigation funders,” the bill provides, “In any class action, class counsel shall promptly disclose in writing to the court and all other parties the identity of any person or entity, other than a class member or class counsel of record, who has a contingent right to receive compensation from any settlement, judgment, or other relief obtained in the action.” A sunshine law for third-party funding is something else for which we’ve advocated.

Multidistrict Litigation:

  • Proof of exposure and injury: We were thrilled to see a “Lone Pine”-esque provision build into the MDL portion of the bill. It provides, in pertinent part, “In any coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings . . . , counsel for a plaintiff asserting a claim seeking redress for personal injury [in the MDL] shall make a submission sufficient to demonstrate that there is evidentiary support (including but not limited to medical records) for the factual contentions in the plaintiff’s complaint regarding the alleged injury, the exposure to the risk that allegedly caused the injury, and the alleged cause of the injury . . . within 45 days after the civil action is transferred to or directly filed in the proceedings. That deadline shall not be extended. Within 30 days after the submission deadline, the judge . . . shall [determine] whether the submission is sufficient and shall dismiss the action without prejudice if the submission is found to be insufficient.” Thirty days later, in the continued absence of a satisfactory submission, the action is to be dismissed with prejudice. Not long ago, we advocated for amending the MDL statute to require early factual disclosure, with dismissal as the sanction for not disclosing enough to satisfy Rule 8. This is the functional equivalent.
  • Trial Prohibition (“waiving Lexecon”): MDL judges “may not conduct any trial in any civil action transferred to or directly filed in the proceedings unless all parties to the civil action consent to trail of the specific case sought to be tried.” This provision would remove the threat of MDL trials as a tool to force defendants to settle. It is something else for which we have advocated.
  • Ensuring Proper Recovery for Plaintiffs: MDL plaintiffs “shall receive not less than 80 percent of any monetary recovery obtained in that action by settlement, judgment or otherwise.”

While most of the press coverage seems to focus on class actions, to us the removal and MDL provisions are at least as important. The vast bulk of our professional life is spent in the mass tort space – mostly MDLs these days, with the occasional class action thrown in. We have become accustomed (but never inured) to plaintiffs without injuries herded by counsel who are their friends or bosses into mass actions in which they don’t belong. On the other end of the spectrum, we encounter severely injured plaintiffs who will recover next to nothing because lawyers and litigation funders own most or all of the plaintiffs’ stakes in the inevitable settlements. And, at every turn, we sit across the table from tanned and affluent plaintiff attorneys who are the only ones apparently immune to the vagaries of the system and who are the sole beneficiaries of its inequities. H.R. 985, as drafted, attempts to address many of these issues. We do have questions. Who defines “the same type and scope of injury,” for example? And we have doubts: can a bill possibly survive the powerful plaintiff attorney lobby when it attempts to resurrect the integrity of mass litigation by hitting those attorneys squarely in their pocketbooks? But we heartily and excitedly support this bill, and we know that some of its provisions are way, way better than none. We will keep you posted.

For those of us who spend large chunks of our professional lives in mass tort MDLs, expressions like “settlement inventory” are ubiquitous. It is too easy to lose sight of the fact that these expressions put the rabbit in the hat, assuming that resourceful plaintiff lawyers will necessarily queue up for settlement payments at the end of the day and disregarding the fact that plaintiffs are supposed to be able to prove injury and causation before money changes hands.  And so we were especially pleased to read last week’s decisions in the Lipitor MDL, in which the  cautious and relentlessly thorough MDL  judge granted defendant Pfizer’s omnibus summary judgment motion, dismissing all but a single newly-filed case, because the plaintiffs could not meet their burden of proving that Lipitor caused their diabetes.  (There are two decisions relating to different dosages of Lipitor.  You can read them here and here.)

The Lipitor MDL, created in February 2014, centralized cases in which female plaintiffs alleged that Lipitor – prescribed in dosages of 10 mg., 20 mg., 40 mg., and 80 mg. – caused them to develop Type 2 diabetes.  In March and April of 2015, as trials of two bellwether cases approached, the plaintiffs served common expert disclosures of general causation experts, followed, in May and June, 2015, by specific causation expert disclosure in the two bellwether cases.  After full expert discovery, Pfizer moved to exclude all of these experts.  Ultimately, the court excluded the plaintiffs’ expert testimony on general causation with respect to Lipitor dosages of 10, 20, and 40 mg.  The court  also excluded the testimony of the bellwether plaintiffs’ specific causation experts, finding that the experts failed to rule out other possible causes of diabetes and relied impermissibly on temporal relationships, and granted summary judgment  for Pfizer on the claims of both bellwether plaintiffs.  (You can read our posts on these Daubert decisions here and here.)

However, the court left one general causation “window” open, based on one study finding that it was more likely than not that patients with certain characteristics who took 80 mg of Lipitor would not have developed diabetes in the absence of Lipitor. Thus, though neither of the bellwether plaintiffs had the requisite characteristics, it was possible that a plaintiff existed who took Lipitor at the 80 mg dosage and who could proffer a specific causation opinion that would survive Daubert.

Continue Reading Lipitor MDL Court Grants Pfizer’s Omnibus Summary Judgment Motion: No Evidence of Causation

Last week, along with many of you, we attended the ACI Drug and Medical Device Conference in New York City. The quality of the presentations was uniformly high, and the collegiality and camaraderie were welcome, refreshing, and a lot of fun.  There was plenty to drink.  There was lots of food.  Oh, and we got to see Hamilton!  We should preface our comments by pointing out that we were skeptics – we knew how pricey (really, really pricey) tickets are, and we weren’t even positive we would enjoy this immensely innovative rap musical.  To wit, one of our best beloved musicals of recent years was the wonderful, if short-lived, revival of Finian’s Rainbow that played the Great White Way a couple of years ago.  We go for the traditional stuff, and had neither resources nor plans to spring for Hamilton.

But we got very lucky. A generous friend had bought four tickets a full year earlier in anticipation of the annual conference.  And there was a last-minute cancellation.  And we got to go.  And it was worth all of the hype (and all of the money, if you have it).   We enjoyed it so much that we came home and researched ticket availability to return with the Drug and Device Law Long-Suffering Companion.  Tickets are on sale for next year, and we thought that we could avoid the crazy street prices by planning way ahead.   Not so – even this far in advance, tickets (from official ticket sources, not ticket agencies) are way out of the reach of normal consumers.  Sometimes, the early bird does not get the worm (or the greatest financial benefit).

And, with just a bit of creativity, we can glean the same message (among others) from today’s case. Dobbs v. DePuy Orthopedics, — F.3d —, 2016 WL 7015648 (Seventh Cir. Dec. 1, 2016), is an appeal of an attorney’s fee decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  (We’ll explain how it got there in a minute.)  The plaintiff/appellant had direct-filed a product liability claim in the Hip Implant MDL in the Northern District of Ohio.  Believing that the promised compensation was too low, he opted out of the global settlement and fired his lawyers, who had advised him to accept the global settlement, which included a 35% attorneys’ fee.   (The global settlement provided one level of payment for unrepresented plaintiffs, and a second level, 35% higher, for represented plaintiffs.)

Less than two months after his lawyers withdrew their appearance, the plaintiff accepted the global settlement. Because he was considered “represented” for purposes of the settlement, he was paid the larger amount.  (Not clear why he was considered “represented” when his lawyers had been fired.)  His former lawyers asserted a lien on the award and sought to recover attorney’s fees.  The MDL judge tried unsuccessfully to mediate the fee dispute in the Northern District of Ohio then transferred the case to the Northern District of Illinois, where the case would have been filed if the MDL had not been pending.

Continue Reading Court of Appeals Applies Law of Would-Be Filing Court in Fee Dispute in Hip Implant Case Filed Directly Into MDL

Sometimes it takes a lot of words to say something.  The Iliad.  War and Peace.  SCOTUS’s Obergfell decision.  But sometimes, in just a few words, it is possible to create an image, or stir a memory, or underscore a point.  Call me Ishmael.  I have a dream.  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  And, apropos of sweet-smelling roses, today’s very short Georgia Supreme Court decision makes the point that expert opinions are expert opinions even when clothed as fact testimony, and must be excluded from evidence unless they meet the relevant admissibility standards. Yugueros v. Robles, 2016 WL 6407314 (Ga. Oct. 31, 2016), is not a drug or device decision.  It is a medical malpractice case, but its holding is relevant for anyone who deals with opposing experts.  Which we do, regularly and painfully.  (You can see a recent post on a similar issue here.)

In Yugueros, the appellant performed extensive cosmetic surgery on the appellee’s decedent (his wife).  Subsequently, Mrs. Robles went to the emergency room suffering from severe abdominal pain.  After an abdominal x-ray, which the E.R. doctor determined to be “unremarkable,” Mrs. Robles was discharged.  A radiologist who later saw the abdominal film could not rule out the presence of free air in the abdomen, which “could be a normal post-operative condition or could indicate a more serious issue.” Yugueros, 2016 WL 6407314 at *1.  The radiologist recommended a CT scan and posted his opinion in Mrs. Robles’s electronic medical record.

Continue Reading Expert Testimony in Sheep’s Clothing is Still Expert Testimony, Says Georgia Supreme Court

Last week, the Drug and Device Law Lifelong BFF asked us if we were interested in a quick trip to New York to use tickets for an early morning taping of “Live with Kelly.” Sure, we said – sounds like fun.  And so, after nearly two hours in line and significant drama over whether we were in front of or behind the “make it into the studio” line we were told would be drawn, we  were seated.   And we had a great time.  Kelly is as adorable and effervescent as she appears on television.  Her guest co-host interjected continuous comments from the “intelligent and engaged host” playbook.  And the guests were bona fide celebrities whom it was fun to observe at a distance of a scant ten feet.   But what was most impressive about the whole exercise was the opportunity to see what goes into the daily illusion that the hosts and the guests are responsible for the “workings” of an interview show.  Because, in fact, the stage was swarming with people who kept the machine operating, and the familiar faces were a tiny nucleus at the center of it all.  There were stylists and producers and directors and cameramen everywhere – so much so that they often blocked our view and we resorted to watching on monitors or on the screens mounted on the huge cameras.  And we realized that there would be no final product without every piece of this puzzle.

In today’s case, the absence of a requisite puzzle piece – a qualified specific causation expert – doomed the plaintiff’s case. In In re Zoloft Litigation, 2016 WL 5958372 (W. Va. Cir. Ct. Oct. 5, 2016), the court considered the defendants’ motion to exclude the plaintiff’s (general and specific) causation expert, who was a research scientist and not a medical doctor..  The expert had designated the expert to render the opinions that the defendants’ product could cause “deleterious effects both in developmental autonomy, neuroautonomy, and neurological function including the development of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders,” 2016 WL 5958372 at *1 (emphasis in original), and that the plaintiff’s mother’s ingestion of the product while she was pregnant caused a seizure disorder and “cognitive and neurobehavioral disorder” in the plaintiff. Id.

The expert was deposed, on successive days, in four pending cases including this one. After the first day of his deposition, when he testified on behalf of two other plaintiffs, he met with plaintiffs’ counsel for several hours and drafted an updated disclosure in this case, omitting all references to autism and deleting the opinion that the defendants’ product caused the plaintiff’s seizures.   Instead, the new disclosure stated that the expert would testify that the plaintiff’s mother’s use of the product during pregnancy was a cause of the plaintiff’s developmental delays. Id. at *2.   Asked to explain why he revised his disclosure, the expert testified that, after “going back over the [plaintiff’s] records in preparation for” his deposition, he “felt it was prudent to focus on the developmental delay” and to delete the opinions that the defendants’ product caused autism and epilepsy. Id. Why?  Because the plaintiff had not been clinically diagnosed with autism, and because there was not a “good differential diagnosis” concluding that the plaintiff’s seizures “occurred at the right time to be related to his mother’s use” of the defendants’ product.” Id.

Continue Reading Expert Who Admitted That He Was Unqualified and That His Opinions Lacked Methodology Not Allowed to Testify in Zoloft Litigation.

This past weekend, we paid a return visit to Cleveland, the home of our best law school friend, who braved the (figurative) waters of New Haven with us so many years ago.  In deference to the Drug and Device Law Traveling Companion, we visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  In contrast to the stunning rotunda of our beloved Country Music Hall of Fame, the Football Hall stacks all of the inductees’ busts against a single wall – sort of a warehouse of disembodied heads.  We felt like we were in the parts department of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.  But we enjoyed the visit and paid fond homage to the bust of Tommy McDonald.  We also visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which we had seen before and which we continue to find both impressive and tons of fun.  This time, we lingered at the “One-Hit Wonders” display, commemorating so many recording artists who disappeared after just a bit of noise, never to be heard from again.

The plaintiff in today’s case followed the same trajectory, albeit after his apparently meritless case languished on an MDL docket for eight years.  In Wilhelm v. Pfizer, Inc. 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127269 (D. Nev. Sept. 19, 2016), the complaint was originally filed in 2006 in the District of Nevada by fourteen plaintiffs alleging that the defendant’s product caused suicidal ideations.  The JPML transferred the case to the Neurontin MDL after it was filed, and remanded it back to the transferor court in July 2013 with three plaintiffs remaining.   One month later, the court permitted counsel for these plaintiffs to withdraw.  Two of the plaintiffs dropped out, leaving a single plaintiff, proceeding pro se. In February 2014, the defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not produce any expert evidence proving that the defendant’s product caused his injuries.  The plaintiff filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in June 2014.  He never disclosed his product liability lawsuit in the course of his bankruptcy proceedings.

Continue Reading The End of the Road for Pro Se Neurontin Plaintiff with No Evidence of Causation

We (in its blog-specific singular version) are longstanding country music fans. There is backstory – call us when you are in Philadelphia and we will tell you about it over coffee. Suffice it to say that Nashville, the Grand Ole Opry, and country greats from the 1970’s and 1980’s occupy a significant and permanent place in our soul.  So we were moved by a new video making the rounds of social media today. Entitled “Forever Country,” it is features 30 Country Music Association Award winners – both modern and legendary – in a beautiful montage celebrating 50 years of the CMA awards. You can see it here. There is also some pretty cool irony in the choice of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as the song that opens the video and winds its way throughout. In 1975, John Denver was nominated as Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year. The previous year’s winner, Charlie Rich, was a bit “in his cups,” as they say, when he read the nominations. As he announced Denver as the winner, he struck a match and lit the card on fire in protest, because he did not think Denver was truly “country.” Happy to debate that when we have coffee, but we (unashamedly) love John Denver, as our office neighbors will attest. We are happy that Denver’s signature song was used in this celebration of country music. If it wins him some new fans, better late than never.

Also better late than never to report on today’s case, which just appeared online though it was decided 2 ½ years ago. In Peterson v. Wright Medical Technology, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189473 (C.D. Ill. Feb. 13, 2014), the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois considered the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim in a hip implant case. The plaintiff, who was obese, received a new modular artificial hip to address his “significant end stage osteoarthritis” caused by an earlier accident. At the time of the plaintiff’s hip implant, his surgeon “had been an orthopedic surgeon for 31 years and had seen many evolutions of hip implants. He had read several journal articles about modular implants, including the [subject implant].” He had also read the Instructions for Use (“IFU”) included with the implant. He “knew that a patient’s weight and activity level could have an effect on the ultimate outcome of the surgery but had no reason to believe that Plaintiff was not an appropriate candidate for the implantation of this device.” The surgeon explained all of these risks to the plaintiff and required him to attend a two-hour teaching session before obtaining his informed consent.  Peterson, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189743 at *3-4.

Two years after the plaintiff’s surgery, the titanium modular neck of his artificial hip broke into two pieces. In his complaint, the plaintiff asserted the usual strict liability and negligence claims, along with a punitive damages claim that was later dropped. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s warnings claims sounding in both strict liability and negligence.

Continue Reading Defendant Did Not “Fail to Warn” Where It Warned of Exactly What Happened to the Plaintiff’s Artificial Hip

We spend the vast bulk of our professional life working in the context of MDLs.   We know the drill:  plaintiff lawyers file hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of cases.  At some point, the cream rises to the top in the form of “bellwether” cases – cases with enough merit that a plaintiff expert of (relative) repute can verify the injury and attest to a causal link between that injury and our client’s product.  But that leaves the vast bulk of the docket — plaintiffs who may have seen an ad on late-night television, or received a cold call, or heard that a friend made some money in a tort suit.  These cases will never be the focus of the plaintiff lawyers’ attention, and most will remain untouched until they queue up, hands outstretched, as part of a “settlement inventory,” unless defense counsel mount pro-active efforts (and expend their resources and the court’s) to weed them out through dispositive motions.

In recent years, MDL judges have become more aware of, and less patient with, this reality, prompting increasing (and laudable) use of “Lone Pine” orders. We love Lone Pine orders, as we’ve discussed here and here.  But Lone Pine orders are remedial – while they may eventuate in the dismissal of meritless cases, they do not operate, in any significant fashion, to deter the filing of such cases in the first instance or the failure to dismiss them when their lack of merit first becomes clear.

Continue Reading Put Up or Pay Up: Mentor Obtape MDL Judge Promises Sanctions to Plaintiff Attorneys Filing Meritless Cases

This weekend, the Drug and Device Law Rock Climber hosted a sleepover to say goodbye to her friends as she headed back to college. Somehow, between our last survey of heads on pillows and the convergence on the breakfast table, the number of non-resident young adults increased, prompting the logical question (as we cracked a few more eggs), “How did you guys get here?”

In In re Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) Litigation, 2016 WL 3931820 (D. Ariz. July 21, 2016), the United States District Court for the District of Arizona asked a similar question.  This is obviously not a drug or device case, but it is relevant to all of us who defend clients in MDLs. In MERS, cases related to the formation and operation of the subject mortgage registration systems were consolidated in an MDL.  After the court dismissed a number of associated cases, the plaintiffs filed a Consolidated Amended Complaint (“CAC”). One of the named plaintiffs in the CAC had not been named in the previous complaint and “had never filed a lawsuit that the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred to [the court].” MERS, 2016 WL 3931820 at *1.

A complicated procedural sequence ensued. The district court dismissed the CAC for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.  In its discussion of its dismissal of Count I of the CAC, the court stated, “[The new] alleged Plaintiff . . . is not a named Plaintiff in any member case of this MDL.  Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ claim cannot rest on allegations relating to [this plaintiff].”  Id. at *1.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the CAC except that it reversed and remanded as to Count I.  And so, the parties ended up back before the MDL court, where the defendants moved for summary judgment on the new plaintiff’s claims.  The defendants argued, “[This plaintiff] never filed a lawsuit that the [JPML] transferred to this Court.  Rather, [he] was joined when Plaintiffs filed their Consolidated Master Complaint – which is impermissible – and thus, this Court’s jurisdiction has not been invoked.” Id. at *2 (citations omitted).  In the alternative, the defendants asked that the new plaintiff’s claims be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

The court requested supplemental briefing on the following questions: 1) Does a transferee MDL court have the authority to join ‘new’ plaintiffs in an MDL when such plaintiffs never filed their own case (nor paid the filing fee) and never had their cases transferred to this Court by the panel on multidistrict litigation; and 2) what was the basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction over the new plaintiff’s case. Id. In their supplemental brief, the plaintiffs argued that the new plaintiff’s case was properly joined in the MDL because, like other plaintiffs, the defendants were allegedly involved in recording false documents related to the new plaintiff’s property.  Plaintiffs also argued that the court had diversity jurisdiction over the new plaintiff’s claims.  The defendants countered, “The jurisdictional issue relating to [the new plaintiff] does not involve whether there was diversity jurisdiction or federal question jurisdiction relating to [his] claims.  Rather, the issue is whether the Court’s jurisdiction is sufficiently invoked because [the new plaintiff] never filed a lawsuit in this federal court or in any other federal court that was then transferred to the MDL Court by the [JPML].” Id. at *3.

Continue Reading MDL Court Says “You Don’t Belong Here” to Plaintiff “Added by Amendment”

Over the Fourth of July weekend, we in the Philadelphia area learned that 120 of the “new, state-of-the-art” trains in our regional commuter rail system were being pulled out of service. Someone noticed that the trains were listing to one side as they traveled down the tracks, and, on inspection, discovered cracks in structural beams in the cars’ undercarriage. So the defective trains are out of service, the rail system’s capacity has been reduced by one-third, and the result is bedlam.   Trains packed with standing passengers bypass stations toward the ends of their lines, leaving commuters stranded.  Train frequency has been slashed, delays and cancellations are rampant, and everyone is pretty upset.  And pretty vocal about it.  Oh, and did I mention that the problem won’t be rectified until at least the end of August, cementing this anarchy right through the Democratic National Convention, headed for our fair city in less than three weeks.   Two of the three Philadelphia bloggers (McConnell and Weil) commute from the suburbs (Bexis lives a 45-minute walk from the office in West Philly), and the disruption has been substantial.  But we suppose we should be grateful that the cracks were discovered before the house of cards tumbled tragically down.

Cracks also plague the foundation of today’s decision. In Crochet v. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83685 (M.D. La. June 28, 2016), the plaintiff alleged that the prescription drug Abilify caused him to develop tardive dyskinesia (“TD”), a neurological disorder that resulted in permanent, uncontrollable movements of his mouth and jaw, including lip smacking and jaw clenching.  Among the plaintiff’s claims were a design defect claim under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (“LPLA”) and a claim for “redhibition” under Louisiana law.  (Our co-blogger, Mr. McConnell, suggested this case for blogging just so we could use the word “redhibition” – but we already had, )  As the court explained, “Under Louisiana law, a buyer has a warranty against redhibitory defects, or vices, in the thing sold.  A defect is redhibitory when . . . its use is so inconvenient that it must be presumed that a buyer would not have bought the thing had he known of the defect.” Crochet, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83685 at *10 (internal punctuation and citation omitted).  Recovery under the theory of redhibition is limited to economic loss, including rescission of purchase price – it does not include recovery for personal injury.  The defendants filed a 12(b)(6) motion seeking dismissal of the plaintiff’s design defect and redhibition claims.

Continue Reading Middle District of Louisiana Gets it Wrong: A Different Product is not an “Alternative Design”