Is the lesson learned by at least one plaintiff’s counsel in the In re Yasmin & Yaz Mktg. Sales Practices & Prod. Liab. Litig. We already know mass tort MDLs are a breeding ground for lax plaintiff-side representation. A handful of plaintiffs’ attorneys lead the charge, while the rest file their cases, and then lie in the weeds waiting for settlement. And in a system designed not to pay much attention to the individual cases, at least until the litigation is significantly advanced, missing due dates in an individual case also doesn’t garner much attention. That is until it does.

Today’s case isn’t about preemption, or expert opinions, or off-label use, or even about pleadings standards. What it is about is an individual plaintiff’s counsel being held accountable for not paying attention to MDL orders and for simply doing nothing. We’re just going to tell this one like it is, because we couldn’t even make up facts this absurd.

The individual case is Dzik v. Bayer Corp., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 684 (7th Cir. Jan. 13, 2017). Plaintiff filed her suit alleging that she suffered a blood clot from her use of Yasmin, a birth control pill. Id. at *2. Discovery, however, revealed that plaintiff had not filled a Yasmin prescription for 10 months before her alleged injury. Plaintiff’s counsel suggested that plaintiff had been given samples shortly before her injury. In May 2014, defense counsel requested plaintiff produced additional medical records or even an affidavit from the prescribing doctor to substantiate use at the time of injury. Id. That requested was ignored for 15 months.

During those many months, defendant began settling the pending cases. As for non-settling plaintiffs the court entered an order (sometime in the summer of 2015) splitting them into two groups – those likely to settle and those likely not to. Pursuant to the order, if a plaintiff thought her case was likely to settle with a little more negotiation, plaintiff should so notify defendant and if defendant agreed, the case was stayed for 60-90 days to facilitate settlement. Id. at *3. For all other cases, defendant had to notify plaintiff that her case was in the non-settling group and if plaintiff didn’t timely object to that classification, plaintiff had 120 days to serve a Plaintiff Fact Sheet and certain pharmacy and medical records, and a report from an expert on causation. Id. If a plaintiff failed to comply, defendant could move for dismissal and dismissal with prejudice was automatic for any plaintiff who did not respond to the motion to dismiss within 14 days.

Continue Reading You Can Hide But You Can’t Run

Even after having read it through twice, we find the result in Barron v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc., ___ S.W.3d ___, 2016 WL 6596091 (Mo. App. Nov. 8, 2016), hard to fathom, and even harder to stomach.  For several years after starting the blog, one of our aphorisms was “nothing good ever comes out of Missouri.”  Then legal developments caused us to retire that slogan.  Now we may have to bring it back – maybe.

Barron affirmed a $48 million verdict – concerning birth defects – against the maker of a drug that had a black box warning – about birth defects

[THE DRUG] CAN PRODUCE TERATOGENIC EFFECTS SUCH AS NEURAL TUBE DEFECTS (E.G., SPINA BIFIDA). ACCORDINGLY, THE USE OF [THE DRUG] IN WOMEN OF CHILDBEARING POTENTIAL REQUIRES THAT THE BENEFITS OF ITS USE BE WEIGHED AGAINST THE RISK OF INJURY TO THE FETUS.

Barron, 2016 WL 6596091, at *1.

Astonishingly, this boxed warning, which only the FDA can mandate, was a sufficiently inadequate advisory that the drug could cause birth defects that a St. Louis (City) jury awarded $23 million in punitive damages to the plaintiff, who was from Minnesota.

And those two places – St. Louis City and Minnesota – are as much the problem as the “Show-Me-The-Money State” verdict itself. Barron is a poster child for venue and joinder run amok.  First, the underlying action was filed by 24 plaintiffs from all over the country (13 different states), with nothing in common save claiming somewhat similar injuries to different persons from the same drug.  Id. at *4.  Of course, a couple of plaintiffs were from Missouri (and another presumably from the home state of a defendant), in order to defeat diversity.  Id. at *2.

Continue Reading Awful Missouri Venue/Joinder Ruling Offers Way Out – Take It!

This post comes from the non-Reed Smith side of the blog.

We’ve been posting for a few months about the procedural and evidentiary controversies that have arisen in the Pinnacle Hip Implant MDL bellwether process. The second bellwether trial involved significant evidentiary and procedural rulings that raised eyebrows across the defense bar (discussed here and here). After that trial unsurprisingly produced a ½ billion dollar jury verdict, the defense asked the MDL Court to stay further bellwether trials so that the Fifth Circuit could review those rulings. No luck. Instead, the MDL Court ordered that the next bellwether trial should happen—and quickly (discussed here). After all that, and with the third bellwether trial approaching fast, the defense must feel like the coyote lying flat on the ground staring up at the bottom of a plummeting anvil coming at him a second time.

Undaunted, however, the defense has now filed a motion to continue the third bellwether trial, a motion that raises serious concerns about the time allotted to “work-up” the plaintiffs’ cases that will be involved in the trial. The defense argues that the allotted time is simply too short, not providing enough time for the complex medical issues underlying each plaintiff’s case to be developed and understood so that a trial can produce the type of verdicts that can advance the MDL process. To illustrate this, the defense compared the discovery and pre-trial periods that led up to the second bellwether trial (Aoki) to those leading up to this trial:

  • In Aoki, there were 11 months between case selection and trial (2/27/2015-1/11/2016); here, by contrast, there are just 3 ½ months between case selection and trial (6/10/2016-9/26/2016).
  • In Aoki, there were more than seven months between case selection and the due dates for defendants’ expert reports (2/27/2015-10/9/2015); here, by contrast, there are just 2 ½ months between case selection and the due date for defendants’ expert reports (6/10/2016-8/26/2016).
  • The Aoki schedule afforded defendants eight weeks to respond to plaintiffs’ expert reports (8/14/2015-10/9/2015); here, by contrast, defendants are being given just two weeks to analyze and respond to plaintiffs’ expert reports.

(Defense Br. at 9.)

Continue Reading The Pinnacle Hip Implant MDL Continues—with a Motion for a Continuance

This post comes from the Cozen O’Connor side of the blog.

If you say the words “sales rep custodial files” to an in-house litigation counsel at a pharmaceutical company, she will almost always reflexively bite down on a piece of wood and wait for the pain, which will soon arrive via a series of ghastly visions. She will envision hard-copy files strewn about passenger seats, kitchen tables, home offices and work cubicles across the country. She will see laptops sitting on tables with thumb drives scattered all around them and random documents loitering perniciously on their C: drives. She will imagine paralegals everywhere doing things, lots of things, and she will see searches, documents being scanned or coded, attorneys conducting reviews and attorneys conducting more reviews. She will imagine a sign over her office door: “Cost Center.” Bundles of cash will be floating out her window toward the street, as her computer screen tallies it up like the national debt clock. She’ll lower her head into her palm, the piece of wood will drop from her mouth, and she’ll reach for an outsized bottle of Advil sitting right there on her desk.

Sales rep custodial files are always a discovery issue. The files aren’t contained in readily searchable company databases. They are scattered, and they require a labor intensive and costly collection and review process. Worse, they produce little new information, as they often contain documents that are duplicative of material already provided in the company’s general production. Frankly, if they are produced for cases that are not actively involved in case-specific discovery, we suspect that plaintiffs’ lawyers rarely if ever look at them. Yet, because of the costly and painful process of producing them, plaintiffs want them even if they don’t really need them.

In the Fluoroquinolone MDL in the District of Minnesota, the court recently ruled that the defendants are not required to produce sales rep custodial files with their Defendant Fact Sheets (DFS) as part of case-specific discovery, or at least not for cases that are not part of a bellwether process. Plaintiffs wanted everything. For each case, they wanted the custodial files of each sales rep that contacted the plaintiff’s prescriber, as well as from that sales rep’s manager and the manager’s manager. That is a massive undertaking. Anyone experienced in these mass torts knows that plaintiffs often identify multiple prescribers. And each of those prescribers will have seen multiple sales reps over the years. With hundreds of MDL cases, that creates a large number of sales reps and managers from whom custodial files would be produced. One defendant estimated that producing these files could cost as much as $90,000,000.

Continue Reading The Court in the Fluoroquinolone MDL Orders That Defendants Do Not Have to Produce Sales Rep Custodial Files (Not Yet)