Judge hammers Pfizer for 'impuissant' argument

Steve Korris Nov. 2, 2005, 7:37am

U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan has remanded a proposed class action suit against drug maker Pfizer to Madison County, declaring the argument behind last year’s removal of the suit “impuissant.”

The word means lacking power.

Reagan told the plaintiff to send Pfizer a bill for costs associated with the removal and ordered Pfizer to pay the bill by Nov. 10.

Pfizer attorney Robert Shultz had taken the case to federal court after spotting an apparent contradiction in the suit of Barbara Mihalich of Granite City.

Mihalich sued in November 2004, seeking to represent all U.S. buyers of Bextra, a pain reliever. She claimed that Pfizer concealed, suppressed and withheld information about health risks of Bextra.

Her attorney, William Faulkner, wrote that Bextra increased risks of clots, strokes and heart attacks.

Faulkner wrote that Mihalich sought to recover less than $75,000. If she had sought more than that, she would have had to sue in federal court.

In the same complaint, Faulkner wrote that Pfizer gained “many millions” by covering up the risks. He also sought punitive damages.

Shultz removed the case to U.S. District Court in December. He argued that Mihalich sought more than $75,000. He wrote that her claim for less than that was “illusory.”

In January, Faulkner moved in federal court to remand the suit to Madison County.

Judge Reagan granted the motion Sept. 29, rejecting Shultz’s reasoning as impuissant.

Reagan ruled that Mihalich’s statement of intent to recover less than $75,000 controlled his decision.

He disagreed with the argument that her statement was illusory. He wrote that Pfizer had not shown that Mihalich alone would receive more than $75,000.

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