The Fifth District Appellate Court on Monday handed down a pair of orders that reversed a trio of rulings on forum non conveniens.
The unpublished orders stem from the St. Clair County cases of Diane Baker, et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, et al.; Leon Canfield Jr., et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, et al.; and Johnny Wilson, et al. v. McNeil-PPC, Inc.
The appellate court consolidated Baker and Canfield for purposes of argument and decision and issued a separate, but nearly identical order in Wilson.
At issue in all three appeals was whether St. Clair Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson erred in denying the defendants’ motions to sever and dismiss or transfer based on forum non conveniens.
The appeals panel in both orders reversed Gleeson’s rulings and remanded the cases back to the circuit court with directions.
Justice Stephen Spomer delivered the court’s judgments and Justices Richard Goldenhersh and James Wextten concurred.
All three suits deal with claims over prescription medications.
The plaintiffs in Baker and Canfield allege they suffered injuries as a result of buying and taking Levaquin, a prescription antibiotic made and marketed by Johnson & Johnson and the other defendants.
In Wilson, the plaintiffs claim they suffered injuries from purchasing and ingesting Tylenol, a drug made by McNeil-PPC.
The defendants in all three cases sought to sever and dismiss or transfer the claims of the plaintiffs that lived outside of St. Clair County or Illinois based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens.
Gleeson denied the motions in all three cases, spurring the defendants to appeal.
The plaintiffs, the orders state, filed a motion to dismiss the appeal after briefing to the appellate court, saying they consented to the relief requested by the defendants.
The defendants objected to the motion. The appellate court on Monday denied the motion, determining that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to request the appeal be dismissed.
But, Spomer wrote, because the plaintiffs consented to the relief requested by the defendants, the panel reversed the portion of Gleeson’s orders that denied the motion to dismiss based on forum.
The appeals panel also remanded the case back to the circuit court with directions to dismiss the claims of all out-of-state plaintiffs and transfer those to their respective counties.
According to one of the appellate court orders, only one of the 74 plaintiffs in Baker is a resident of St. Clair County. Four plaintiffs, it notes, live in other Illinois counties and the rest are scattered across 23 different states.
In Canfield, the order states, only one of the 36 plaintiffs is a St. Clair County resident, three are Illinois residents and the rest reside in 17 different states.
The order in Wilson did not break down the plaintiffs’ residency.
In addition, the appeals panel directed the circuit court to order the plaintiffs to amend their complaints to state only claims brought by plaintiffs who live in St. Clair County.
The panel also found that the defendants are entitled to recover their costs on appeal.
Belleville attorney Christopher Cueto served as local counsel for the plaintiffs, who were also represented by out-of-state attorneys Robert Salim and Kenneth Fibich.
St. Louis attorneys Dan Ball, Stephen Strauss and Stefan Mallen with Bryan Cave represented the defendants.