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Kendra Goldhirsch
Kendra Goldhirsch
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JPML Consolidates Eliquis Litigation in New York

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In October 2016, Eliquis manufacturers Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Pfizer Inc. submitted a petition to the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate all Eliquis lawsuits into one court for pre-trial proceedings. They argued at the time that coordination would serve the convenience of all the parties and witnesses, and would promote the just and efficient resolution of all actions.

In their petition, the defendants argued that the cases be consolidated before one judge in the Southern District of New York. They stated it was most suitable because the defendants’ headquarters were located in that district, witnesses and documents were located there, it was easily accessible, and almost half of the related actions had been filed there.

The JPML heard the parties’ arguments on consolidation in January and on February 7, 2017, ordered that all federally-filed Eliquis lawsuits be consolidated and sent to the Southern District of New York.

Some Plaintiffs Opposed Centralization of Eliquis Lawsuits

At the time of the order, there were 34 actions pending in 13 federal districts. The defendants supported centralization in New York, but some plaintiffs were hoping for another location. Plaintiffs in 27 actions and 3 potential tag-along actions asked for the case to be centralized in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Plaintiffs in three other actions opposed centralization entirely, but also requested the Eastern District of Louisiana if the JPML panel decided that the cases should be centralized.

At the time of the order, there were 34 actions pending in 13 federal districts. The defendants supported centralization in New York, but some plaintiffs were hoping for another location. Plaintiffs in 27 actions and 3 potential tag-along actions asked for the case to be centralized in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Plaintiffs in three other actions opposed centralization entirely, but also requested the Eastern District of Louisiana if the JPML panel decided that the cases should be centralized.

The plaintiffs arguing against centralization argued that informal coordination was appropriate, rather than centralization, because motions to dismiss had been decided in four actions, and some actions have begun early discovery.

The JPML disagreed and stated that information coordination was not an efficient alternative. They stated that the large number of actions and districts and the complexity of the issues posed significant obstacles to informal coordination. Additional federal actions are expected to be filed in the coming months.

JPML Agrees on the Southern District of New York

The JPML concluded that the actions involved common questions of fact, and that centralization would promote just and efficient litigation. In all of the actions, plaintiffs allege that they suffered severe bleeding and related injuries after taking Eliquis (apixaban). They also allege that the manufacturers failed to sufficiently test the drug before releasing it on the market, and failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks, particularly the risk of uncontrolled bleeding without a readily available antidote.

The JPML stated in its Order that centralization will reduce duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the judiciary. The panel also agreed that the Southern District of New York was the best court for the litigation because the defendants have their headquarters there and because sixteen actions on the motion and three potential tag-along actions are pending there.

Finally, JPML noted that Judge Denise L. Cote, who presides over the actions in that district, was experienced and willing to manage the litigation and appointed her to oversee the proceedings.

Eliquis is one of several new-generation blood thinning drugs released on the market to replace warfarin. Similar to Xarelto and Pradaxa, it works to inhibit a blood-clotting enzyme and was marketed as being more convenient than warfarin. Unlike warfarin, however, the drug has no readily available antidote to excessive bleeding, making bleeding events more dangerous and potentially deadly for patients.