Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Grants § 1407 Motion Over Objection of Some Defense Attorneys to Avoid Inconsistent Rulings on Class Action Certification in Federal Antitrust Cases
Six class action lawsuits were filed against Merck, Medco Health, PAID Prescriptions (now part of Medco), ExpressScripts, Caremark, and AdvancePCS (now known as CaremarkPCS) alleging violations of federal antitrust laws based on the “conduct by the pharmacy-benefit manager (PBM) defendants – including the negotiation of rates for the sale of prescription drugs by retail pharmacies.” In re Pharmacy Benefit Managers Antitrust Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 2006 WL 2548205 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit., August 24, 2006). These class action cases were pending in Alabama, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. One of the Pennsylvania plaintiffs filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 to transfer each of the actions to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; defense attorneys for ExpressScripts, Caremark and AdvancePCS opposed centralization based on the “unique questions of fact relating to each PBM.” The Panel disagreed, explaining that even though “the contracts between each plan sponsor/PBM will spawn unique discovery, all plaintiffs allege that these contracts create a price-fixing conspiracy” and that “all actions can be expected to focus on similar PBM practices and procedures.” The Judicial Panel concluded that centralization would “avoid duplication of discovery, prevent inconsistent or repetitive pretrial rulings (especially on the issue of class certification), and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.” Accordingly, the Panel transferred the cases to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.