In a major victory for the more than 60 families who have filed Zofran lawsuits, a panel of federal judges has announced that all existing claims will be transferred to Boston, Massachusetts.
Consolidated as a “Multidistrict Litigation,” the lawsuits will proceed through a series of pre-trial steps together. Plaintiffs expect the move to promote a speedier resolution.
But the potential benefits of coming together and working in tandem aren’t isolated to the recent consolidation of claims. In a single new lawsuit, four mothers have sued GlaxoSmithKline for damages they say were caused by Zofran. A copy of their complaint can be read below:
In Joint Lawsuit, 4 Mothers Say Zofran Led To Heart Defects
The four women filed their joint lawsuit on September 10, 2015. Residents of Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Missouri, the mothers have brought their claim in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis, Missouri. It was registered as case number 4:15-cv-01397-CDP.
Court documents contain few details on this particular case. Each mother says she was prescribed Zofran as an “off label” morning sickness treatment, but none specify whether this exposure occurred during the first trimester.
Upon giving birth, each of the mothers claim their child was diagnosed with congenital heart defects. The nature of these abnormalities is not specified, although the complaint notes a series of studies that linked the anti-nausea drug to “hole in the heart” defects:
- Atrial septal defect
- Ventricular septal defect
- Atrioventricular septal defect
U.S. researchers have also discovered a potential association between Zofran and cleft palate.
Zofran Claims Find Home In Massachusetts
The possibility of consolidation has hung over the Zofran litigation since July, when GlaxoSmithKline first floated the idea. In its petition to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), the company argued for Pennsylvania as a top choice, since Glaxo’s headquarters are in Philadelphia.
But after a spirited hearing session on October 1, the JPML opted for one of Plaintiffs’ recommendations: Massachusetts. Zofran lawsuits will be consolidated as MDL No. 2657. In explaining its decision, the panel noted three facts suggesting the Zofran litigation may have been destined to find its home in Boston from the start:
- The US Department of Justice‘s investigation into Glaxo’s business practices, which ultimately revealed evidence that Zofran had been fraudulently promoted, was begun in Boston.
- The very first study that linked the drug to a birth defect was conducted in Boston, meaning many potential experts will be there.
- Five Zofran lawsuits are already filed there. None are filed in Pennsylvania.
You can read more about the confirmed transfer of Zofran claims in the JPML’s transfer order:
Other Lawsuits Will Likely “Tag-Along”
As you’ll note, the transfer order pertains to only 12 lawsuits explicitly. These were the only claims filed at the time of Glaxo’s initial request to consolidate. Now, there are over 60. So what about the other 48? These lawsuits will likely be transferred, too, as “tag-along actions.”
According to the American Bar Association, claims that aren’t specifically cited in a transfer order, but are eligible for consolidation, can be moved to Boston if the JPML decides that’s appropriate.
In the event that a Plaintiff disagrees with consolidation, they have 15 days to object to their case’s transfer. If they object, a hearing will be scheduled where they can argue why their case shouldn’t be moved to Massachusetts.
While Multidistrict Litigation properly refers to claims filed in federal court, lawsuits brought in state courts, like the one filed by the four women in Missouri, can be transferred as well.
Zofran Lawsuits Find A Judge, Too
You probably also noticed that the JPML selected a judge to oversee the Zofran MDL: the Honorable F. Dennis Saylor, IV.
Saylor was appointed to the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts by President George W. Bush in 2003. Before that, he served as a criminal defense attorney and an Assistant U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. Saylor currently sits on the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees requests for warrants against foreign spies.
Four of the lawsuits filed in Boston were already assigned to Judge Saylor before the JPML announced its decision.