In response to a request to consolidate an apparently mounting group of lawsuits over the chemotherapy drug Taxotere, the New Jersey state court system has asked the bar for feedback on the possible establishment of multi-county litigation.
The litigation involves, as of last month, 353 pending cases against drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis claiming products liability and fraud, and alleging that Taxotere caused permanent hair loss. A notice to the bar dated April 11 and made public the following week was issued by Acting Administrative Director of the Court Glenn A. Grant.
The application for centralization, dated March 13, was filed by lawyers from New York firm Robins Kaplan. The lawyers pointed to the number of plaintiffs spread across New Jersey as the primary reason for consolidation. Additionally, the commonality of claims contributes to the need for combining the litigation into an MCL, the lawyers claimed.
“The Taxotere (docetaxel) cases involve numerous claims with common, recurrent and complex issues of law and fact,” the application said. “All of these cases involved the chemotherapy drug known as Taxotere (docetaxel). All of the plaintiffs claim that defendants knew, or should have known that Taxotere (docetaxel) causes and contributes to permanent disfigurement and hair loss, and that the defendants failed to adequately warn of those risks.”
The application continued, “Further, all of the actions proposed for designation allege substantially similar violations of law and are based upon the same or substantially similar underlying claims surrounding the safety profile of Taxotere (docetaxel).”
The creation of an MCL would also improve coordination with the national multidistrict litigation based in Louisiana federal court, overseen by U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Once consolidated, the cases should be sent to each plaintiff’s home county for trial, the application urged.
“A contrary decision would severely prejudice a New Jersey plaintiff who does not reside in or near the county to which the centralized litigation is assigned, potentially requiring the plaintiff to live away from home, at great inconveniences and expense, due to the happenstance that there are multiple other related cases pending,” the application said. “Allowing the MCL judge to transfer the cases for trial to the plaintiffs’ chosen county will protect the plaintiffs’ rights, while promoting the primary goal of centralization—efficiency and consistent management and orders throughout the discovery process.”
A Sanofi spokeswoman said in a statement: “We are aware of the MCL application for the Taxotere litigation in New Jersey, and we are fully prepared to abide by whatever decision is made by the Court.”
Rayna Kessler, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in an email: “Given the number of cases filed throughout the state of New Jersey and how many women have suffered from permanent disfigurement, we believe an MCL is necessary to effectively manage this litigation.”