What Happened In The MassTorts World Last Week? 2019-Jan-07

Friday, Jan 4, 2019

In an order issued on December 3, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria agreed to split an upcoming Roundup trial scheduled for February 25 into two phases as per Monsanto's request. The order issued restricts the lawyers representing plaintiff Edwin Hardeman from introducing evidence that the company allegedly attempted to influence the regulators and manipulate public opinion.

Hardeman, who used Roundup in his Sonoma County property, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2015. As per Judge Chhabria's order, the plaintiff lawyers would be allowed to furnish evidence of Monsanto's negligent conduct only if they prove glyphosate as the reason for Hardeman’s cancer in the first phase of the trial. This is to be followed by a second phase of the trial to determine Bayer's liability.  Bayer maintains glyphosate is safe to use, denying it causes cancer in humans.

Hardeman’s attorneys initially opposed the proposals to bifurcate the trial on the grounds that their scientific evidence about glyphosate’s carcinogenic nature was linked to Monsanto's alleged unfair conduct. Bayer has asked the jury to avoid some of the causation evidence being presented during the first phase of the trial, specifically a finding by the World Health Organization’s cancer unit that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic" as it has no basis in science. Judge Chhabria expressed that he would decide at which point during the trial the findings announced by the WHO must be introduced. The company has welcomed the court's decision to focus on the science factor in the first phase of the trial. The federal judge's order also applies to two other so-called bellwether trials which would help determine the range of damages and settlement options for similar cases pending in the litigation.

Bayer faces more than 9,300 Roundup lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country over allegations that it causes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Roundup cancer lawsuits are consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL No. 2741; In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation) in the Northern District of California.

Thursday, Jan 3, 2019

The Sonoma City Council on December 17 voted to accept the city staff's recommendation to ban Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers in all of the city parks in California and indicated their plan to ban such herbicides from all city property including street meridians, parking lots, and the Mountain Cemetery. The move was taken considering the rising amount of evidence pointing to the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and other health issues related to contact with glyphosate.

On the same day, groundskeepers in Chatham, Massachusetts were asked to refrain from using glyphosate-based products. The restricted use and ban of the herbicide is a result of a farm bill passed in December last year which controls the agricultural laws and funding every five years. The bill issued by the U.S. House of Representatives contained a provision which would have stopped the communities from banning roundup. However, 60 officials from 39 communities and 15 states objected in a letter to the conference committee and asked to remove the provision in September.  In absence of the provision, the communities would face few legal barriers to ban the weed killer in their respective localities. Even outside the U.S., a growing number of countries are taking steps to keep Roundup out considering a 2015 report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which added glyphosate as a carcinogen under Proposition 65. Belgium has already banned Roundup use and in close lines, France and Germany are looking forward to phase out Roundup use within the next three years.

Monsanto faces about 10,000 Roundup lawsuits filed across the U.S. involving claims that Roundup use led to NHL or other forms of cancer.

Thursday, Jan 3, 2019

According to a December 26 ruling by the Illinois First District Appellate Court, the jury would determine whether the federal regulators would have allowed Merck to include pancreatic cancer warnings to Januvia's labels.

The ruling upholds a previous Cook County Judge's decision in denying summary judgment motion in two Januvia lawsuits which were filed by family members of four plaintiffs who died due to pancreatic cancer while under Januvia treatment. The lawsuits claimed Merck was aware of the risks linked to the diabetes drug and yet failed to send out sufficient warnings to patients and the medical community. Merck refused to take responsibility for failure-to-warn claims, stating that the FDA would not have allowed adding pancreatic cancer risks as a warning label on the drug label and sought for summary judgment in 2013. U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia granted summary judgment in 2015 and tossed all the filed cases under MDL No. 2452, finding that the claims were preempted by the federal law. However, those cases were reinstated last year by a California Court of Appeal, 2nd District. In its opinion, the Illinois Appeals Court told the issue needs to be put before a jury as part of a trial.

More than 900 Byetta, Januvia, Victoza, and Janumet lawsuits are filed in several state and federal courts. The litigation was centralized in 2013 in the Southern District of California for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

Wednesday, Jan 2, 2019

According to an order issued on December 31 by federal Judge Dan Polster, lawsuits filed by Cabell County Commission and City of Huntington are the next to go for trial among hundreds of other opioid lawsuits claiming extreme side-effects of the prescription pill overdose.

Huntington attorney Paul T. Farrell Jr. indicated the parties representing both the governments are expected to meet this week to decide on the trial date, and evidence exchange for both cases would begin on January 25, 2019.  These are the second set of opioid lawsuits to head for trial after Judge Polster selected lawsuits filed by Cleveland and the Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit for a September 2019 trial. Cabell County and Huntington were the first local governments to sue opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies in 2017 alleging breach of duty to detect, monitor, and report an alarming rise in the prescription drug sale. The lawsuits alleged more than 86 million opioid medication was sold in Cabell County between 2006 and 2014 while the county's total population was about 96,000. Cabell County initially filed a lawsuit against the "Big Three" and H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Co., CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, Kroger and Walgreens in 2017. However, the county also filed an amended complaint in April 2018 targeting seven manufacturers and companies including Purdue Pharma, Actavis, Cephalon, Janssen, Endo, Insys Therapeutics and Mallinckrodt over illegal marketing of the opioids. Huntington filed a lawsuit against the "Big Three" drug distributors - AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson - and former Dr. Gregory Donald Chaney.

More than 1,600 opioid lawsuits have been filed with similar allegations across the U.S. which are consolidated into a multidistrict litigation MDL No. 2804 (In Re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation) overlooked by Judge Polster in the Northern District of Ohio.




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