Bethany Krajelis Feb. 11, 2013, 7:11am

A St. Clair County lawsuit over a drug intended to prevent and treat osteoporosis has made its way to federal court in New Jersey.

Filed late last year and transferred to the federal court in East St. Louis, Claudia Hallmark’s complaint against Merck, Sharp & Dohme Corp. is now part of multi-district litigation that was created in May 2011 to hear claims over Fosamax.

There are currently more than 870 cases pending in the MDL and it looks likely that another handful of St. Clair County cases over the drug could soon join the multi-district litigation being heard by U.S. District Court Judge Joel Pisano in New Jersey.

Merck this week removed six St. Clair County cases over Fosamax to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The drug maker also filed motions to stay the cases, pointing to their likely transfer to the MDL.

St. Louis attorney John Driscoll represents the plaintiffs in all six suits, as well as Hallmark and about a handful other plaintiffs whose cases have already been transferred to the federal court in New Jersey.

Court records show that Chief Judge David Herndon is presiding over three of the six recently transferred Fosamax suits.

He hasn’t ruled on the motions to stay yet, but did set jury trials for the “presumptive” trial month of August 2014 in all three suits brought by Dorothy Carbo, Delores Marie O’Brien and Loyce Marlene Parr.

U.S. District Judge William Stiehl, who is presiding over one Fosamax suit, earlier this week granted the drug maker’s motion to stay pending a determination by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML) on whether Mary Elizabeth Breen’s case should be transferred.

Judges G. Patrick Murphy and J. Phil Gilbert have not yet issued any rulings or set presumptive trial dates in the Fosamax suits before them, according to court records. Those two suits involve plaintiffs Helen Abee and Michelle Gordan.

The MDL that Hallmark’s suit was recently transferred to appears to be one of two created to handle Fosamax claims.

According to JMPL’s website, the multi-district litigation before Pisano in New Jersey –MDL 2243--focuses on Fosamax claims dealing with femur fractures while litigation over osteonecrosis of the jaw –MDL 1789 – was assigned to Judge John Keene in New York.

The litigation in New York’s federal court currently had a total of 1,116 cases, of which 975 remain pending, the JMPL website shows.

Court records show that St. Louis attorney Stefan Mallen of Bryan, Cave represents Merck in the Fosamax suits that originated in St. Clair County.

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