MDL sought in complaints over Pradaxa; About half of nationwide suits filed in East St. Louis

Bethany Krajelis Jul. 13, 2012, 10:24am



A dozen lawsuits over Pradaxa, a prescription blood thinning medication, have been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois since May and plaintiffs are now waiting to find out if Multi District Litigation will be created to handle their claims.

Eight complaints against the drug's manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., were filed in May in the East St. Louis federal court, followed by three more in June and one earlier this month.

Court documents show that these 12 cases account for about half of the complaints filed against Boehringer, as well as a few other foreign corporations, throughout the nation.

Boehringer, a Delaware corporation based in Connecticut, launched the drug in North America in 2010 after the Food and Drug Administration approved Pradaxa for the prevention of stroke and blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm condition.

In the most recent complaint filed against Boehringer in East St. Louis, plaintiff Leeta Witt contends she suffered cerebral bleeding in May 2011 and had to undergo two surgeries to resolve the problem.

Witt, a resident of the Chicago suburbs, claims her injuries were the result of ingesting Pradaxa, which she began taking in February 2011 for long-term maintenance and treatment of her heart rhythm disorder.

Plaintiffs from across the nation allege that the drug caused side effects ranging from internal bleeding to death. Among other claims, plaintiffs contend that Boehringer failed to properly warn users of the risks associated with Pradaxa.

This drug is believed to be the first new treatment alternative for the condition since Warfarin, also known as Coumadin, was developed about six decades ago.

Steven M. Aroesty, an attorney with Napoli, Bern, Ripka, Shkolnik in Edwardsville, filed Witt's complaint last week. He did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The 13 count complaint he filed on Witt's behalf includes claims for strict liability, negligence, breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, fraud and deceptive trade practices. Witt seeks a jury trial, actual damages in excess of $75,000 and punitive damages.

In her complaint, Witt asserts that the defendants in November 2011 confirmed that at least 260 fatal bleeding events had been reported by Pradaxa users worldwide between March 2008 and October 2011. She further asserts that the FDA initiated an investigation into bleeding incidents alleged to have been caused by the drug in December 2011.

Witt's case, as well about two dozen other similar complaints, could be heard in federal court or transferred to a MDL if the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation (JMPL) approves plaintiff Vera Sellers request for one.

In May, Sellers filed her complaint against the drug's manufacturer and requested transfer to a MDL. Court documents in Sellers' case show that Boehringer in June filed a motion to dismiss and a motion to stay pretrial proceedings pending a decision from the JPML.

Dan Ball of Bryan Cave in St. Louis is listed as the Illinois lead counsel for Boehringer. He did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

In his motion seeking a stay of proceedings, Ball said that the JMPL will hear the Pradaxa MDL request on July 26 and a ruling could come as soon as late July or early August. He also noted that Boehringer does not intend to oppose the formation of a MDL.

Late last month, U.S. District Judge David Herndon, who appears to be presiding over all of the local Pradaxa complaints, denied Boehringer's motion for a stay of proceedings. His order was issued in at least seven of the 12 cases in East St. Louis.

Herndon wrote in his order that he was not persuaded by Boehringer's claim that it would suffer hardship from inconsistent rulings and waste resources if proceedings were not stayed.

"Presently, 27 Pradaxa actions are pending in 13 different district courts across the country. This Court, by far, carries the largest number of these actions," Herndon wrote. "This is far too many cases to ignore the issues that are of concern to this Court while the MDL motion is being resolved."

Other complaints over Pradaxa have been filed in federal courts in Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee, according to the JMPL's hearing schedule for July 26. The eight cases filed in May in East St. Louis are listed on the schedule, which was issued before the other four local cases were filed.

He added that, "At this point there is no assurance that the JPML will consolidate all of the relevant cases before a single judge" and that Boehringer's contention that the JMPL would issue a ruling soon "is mere speculation and does not warrant a stay."

Although Herndon denied the motion to stay proceedings, he did grant the defendants' request to reschedule a June 28 status conference for this afternoon, which could explain why many of the attorneys involved in these 12 cases were unavailable for comment today.

Besides Aroesty, who filed Witt's complaint last week, court records show Roger Denton and Kristine Kraft of Schlicter, Bogard & Denton in St. Louis are involved in at least four of the 12 Pradaxa cases filed in the East St. Louis federal court.

Records also show that Sarah Shoemake Doles of Carey Danis & Lowe in St. Louis is involved in three cases and Steven Davis of Tor Hoermann Law in Edwardsville is involved in two.

Attorneys at Foote, Meyers, Mielke & Flowers in suburban Chicago represent two plaintiffs, including the one who seeks the creation of a MDL, and Florida attorney Brenda Fulmer is listed as an attorney in one of the cases that Schlicter, Bogard & Denton is handling.

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