J&J Talc, Monsanto Roundup Consolidation Bids On Tap

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By Julie A. Steinberg

Sept. 15 — Suits over Johnson & Johnson's talcum powders, Monsanto's weed-killer Roundup and Sanofi's breast cancer drug Taxotere are among those on tap for consideration as consolidated federal court proceedings.

Product liability and consumer cases account for more than half the matters set for argument before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation at the panel's Sept. 29 hearing.

In the talc litigation, MDL No. 2738, women allege J&J has been aware since 1971 that use of talcum powder in the genital area causes ovarian cancer, yet the company still markets its products to women with no warning.

Plaintiff Tanashiska Lumas wants the suits combined and sent to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

J&J agrees consolidation of the federal suits is warranted, but says the litigation should go to the District of New Jersey. The company is headquartered there, and that's where the most procedurally advanced case is pending, J&J says.

Alternatively, the company advocates the Western District of Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, talc proceedings also have been underway in state courts.

J&J recently won dismissal of two suits in New Jersey (17 CLASS ???, 9/9/16).

But two state court actions in Missouri resulted in verdicts of $55 million and $72 million.

The first talc trial, in federal court in South Dakota in 2013, ended with a jury finding that J&J was negligent but no damages awarded to the plaintiff.

Roundup, Taxotere, Abilify

In the Roundup litigation, MDL No. 2741, plaintiffs allege they developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma caused by glyphosate, the weed-killer's active ingredient.

Monsanto Co. says Roundup doesn't cause cancer.

Two plaintiffs asked the panel in July to send the Roundup litigation to the Southern District of Illinois.

But Monsanto opposes consolidation, saying it wouldn't be efficient or convenient.

General causation discovery is well underway in two cases, Monsanto says, and the company is voluntarily sharing the completed discovery with other plaintiffs.

The company also argues there are only 25 cases, and said the limited number of counsel and jurisdictions involved also makes informal coordination a practical, efficient, and convenient alternative to an MDL.

If the Panel decides an MDL is appropriate, Monsanto suggests the cases go to the Northern District of California, the Southern District of California, or the Southern District of Florida.

In the Taxotere litigation, MDL No. 2740, plaintiffs sued French drugmaker Sanofi S.A., subsidiary Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC and related companies, alleging they weren't warned that the cancer drug could cause permanent hair loss.

Two plaintiffs want the panel to send the Taxotere suits to the Eastern District of Louisiana (17 CLASS 820, 8/12/16).

Sanofi supports consolidation, but urges the panel to send the suits instead to the District of Colorado—where the first Taxotere suit was filed, or the District of New Jersey—where Sanofi-Aventis is headquartered.

In more drug litigation, plaintiffs sued Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Japan-based Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., and subsidiary Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., over Abilify.

They alleged the companies knew or should have known the anti-psychotic medication causes and exacerbates uncontrollable gambling and other behaviors, yet failed to warn patients or the medical community in the U.S.

The manufacturers and plaintiffs jointly asked the panel in July to send federal suits to the Northern District of Florida (17 CLASS 696, 7/8/16).

The Food and Drug Administration announced in May that warnings regarding “compulsive or uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat, shop, and have sex” would be added to the Abilify label.

Lumber Liquidators Flooring, Chrysler Cars

Several other matters before the panel also deal with consumer and product liability suits.

A group of plaintiffs suing Lumber Liquidators over statements about the durability of Chinese-made laminate flooring seeks (44 PSLR 820, 8/8/16) consolidation in the Central District of California.

These suits are a second round of litigation against Lumber Liquidators over the Chinese-made flooring.

The panel previously declined to include the durability cases as part of an earlier consolidated proceeding that dealt with formaldehyde emissions.

The first round of suits was consolidated in the Eastern District of Virginia in MDL No. 2627.

Lumber Liquidators says the plaintiffs' attorneys are forum shopping in asking that the new suits be centralized in California.

The durability-challenge suits should be consolidated, Lumber Liquidators agrees, but they should go to the Eastern District of Virginia.

In another consumer matter, MDL No. 2744, Timothy Weber asks the panel to centralize consumer suits against FCA US LLC, the U.S. unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

At issue are Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler vehicles equipped with an allegedly defective monostable electronic gearshift.

The suits should be combined in the Eastern District of Michigan, where Weber's suit is pending, he says.

FCA agrees the suits should go to the Eastern District of Michigan, where it's headquartered.

The shifter returns to a central position after a driver switches gear. The design doesn't clearly notify drivers which gear their vehicle is in, Weber says.

And it lacks a safety override function that would automatically put the vehicle in Park when a driver attempts to get out of a vehicle that's in another gear.

This flaw has resulted in hundreds of accidents and vehicle rollaways, Weber says.

Owners have incurred damages including lost value, and the risk of injury or death from rollaways, he says.

In one high-profile suit, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV was sued for wrongful death by the parents of actor Anton Yelchin, who was killed when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled down on him in his driveway

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie A. Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com

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