Judicial Panel Grants Request for Pretrial Coordination of Products Liability Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 Over AstraZeneca Defense Objection but Grants Johnson & Johnson/Eli Lilly Defense Request to Separate and Remand Class Action Claims Against Them for Lack of Common Questions of Fact
More than 120 federal court lawsuits, many of them class actions, against various pharmaceutical companies alleging that AstraZeneca’s Seroquel, an atypical antipsychotic medication, can cause diabetes and related disorders. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, plaintiffs in Louisiana moved the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) to centralize the litigation in Louisiana, while plaintiff in an Illinois action moved for centralization to Illinois; defense attorneys for AstraZeneca opposed the motions. Defense attorneys for the other pharmaceutical companies (Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly) requested that if centralization is granted, then the claims against them be separated and remanded. In re Seroquel Products Liab. Litig., 447 F.Supp.2d 1376, 1377-78 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. 2006). The Judicial Panel rejected defense opposition to centralization, and held pretrial coordination was warranted because common factual questions existed as to “i) the development, testing, manufacturing and marketing of Seroquel, and ii) the defendants’ knowledge concerning the drug’s possible adverse effects.” Id., at 1378. However, the Panel also held that “claims involving prescription drugs other than Seroquel do not share sufficient questions of fact with claims relating to Seroquel,” id.
In the end, the Judicial Panel made several rulings. One, it granted the motion to centralize the lawsuits pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, and selected the Middle District of Florida as the appropriate transferee court. Two, it granted the Johnson & Johnson/Eli Lilly defense request to separate and remand the claims against them. Three, it denied the motion as to lawsuits in which AstraZeneca was no longer a party “leaving claims brought solely against other pharmaceutical companies relating to prescription medications other than Seroquel.” In re Seroquel, at 1379.