Court of Appeal Dismisses Third-Party Payer Class Action in Win for Zantac Makers
Reports of the risk of carcinogens in Zantac heartburn medication can pile up, and lawsuits over the discontinued drug have topped 100,000 nationwide. But a proposed class action lawsuit involving dozens of plaintiffs has now been dismissed after courts found it was poorly framed.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 630 welfare fund did not dispute the drugmakers’ claim that the claims amounted to “shotgun pleadings,” inadmissible under Federal Court rules. The court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit by a lower federal court in the Southern District of Florida. The local union is in South Florida.
“The plumbers were warned, prior to filing their initial brief, that failure to challenge the district court’s decision to plead could be problematic,” the court wrote. “By not contesting this decision, Plumbers has given us no choice but to affirm the dismissal…”
The case is one of many in the Zantac litigation and has been closely watched as it was a consolidated third-party payer class action. The lawsuits against Zantac began more than three years ago, after the drug, known generically as ranitidine, was pulled from the market after the active ingredient was found to be unstable and produced high levels high in N-Nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, a known chemical. carcinogenic to humans.
The plumbers union had paid for heartburn medication for its members and it sued GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals for violating federal anti-racketeering laws. The plaintiffs also named the makers of generic versions of the drug, accusing them of negligence, fraud and other torts. Other plaintiffs have included Pfizer as well as distributors and retailers in their lawsuits.
In a related case also decided this week, two plaintiffs had hoped to revive their challenges after a district court dismissed a consolidated batch of lawsuits.
These plaintiffs, one from Illinois and one from Alabama, argued that the district court’s dismissal of a group of complaints — due to shotgun pleading issues — did not preclude them from filing. individual actions. The brand-name drug makers countered that the appeal was a wrap-up around the earlier dismissal and that it was premature.
This week, the 11th Circuit upheld the dismissal.
The notice explained that plaintiff Arthur Cartee started taking ranitidine products in 2006 and developed prostate cancer in 2012. Marilyn Williams started the drugs in 2011 and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. abdomen and ovaries five years later.
In 2020, a federal court panel created a multi-district litigation plan in the Southern District of Florida, to centralize some of the most remote cases. Cartee and Williams sued that year and their claims were incorporated into the multi-district litigation.
Plaintiffs in multi-district cases had to refile their “primary bodily injury complaints” as well as “abbreviated complaints” or SFCs. The trial court, however, dismissed the main complaints in 2021 as shotgun pleadings. Cartee then filed an amended abbreviated complaint.
Williams pursued a similar strategy. The corporate defendants asked the district courts to dismiss these claims and dismissal appeals.
“Defendants ask us to dismiss Mr. Cartee’s and Ms. William’s appeals for lack of appellate jurisdiction because the orders dismissing the MPIC (lead personal injury claim) – which they say merged the injury cases against them – are not final and without appeal”, the 11e Route explained.
The plaintiffs argued that their cases could be consolidated but that their individual appeal rights are not affected by the multidistrict litigation. Their attorneys argued that their previous actions, thanks to the dismissal of the district court, were “more or less dead”, allowing the more recent actions to continue.
The appeals court found otherwise, noting that the larger litigation issues have not been fully resolved. The judges went so far as to quote the 1987 pop movie, “The Princess Bride”: “There is a big difference between most deaths and all deaths. . . . Most dead is slightly alive.
“At this time, there is no final decision ending their operational complaints – the combination of MPIC and their individual SFCs,” the 11 said.e Notice of circuit concluded. “For this reason, we have no jurisdiction to consider their appeals. The defendants’ motions to dismiss these appeals are granted. »
The layoffs come three months after another Zantac lawsuit was dropped. The makers of the generic version of Zantac in August agreed to a $500,000 settlement with an Illinois man who claimed his esophageal cancer was caused by the drug.
Pharmaceutical companies continued to question the reported link between Zantac and cancer and said NDMA levels were close to what had previously been found in food.
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