St. Clair County Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot has transferred four lawsuits seeking nearly $2 million each after they allegedly developed bladder cancer from a medication intended to treat type II diabetes.

The lawsuits were filed by plaintiffs John McLane, David Steele, Gene Warren and Raul Watkins against Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA, Takeda Pharmaceuticals LLC, Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Inc, Takeda Development Center Americas, Takeda California and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited.

On Nov. 22, the defendants filed a motion to transfer the lawsuit to the Circuit Court of Cook County or Lake County, claiming St. Clair County is the improper venue.

The defendants argue that they are residents of Lake and Cook Counties where they have business offices and registered offices.

“The Illinois Supreme Court has consistently held that merely marketing or selling a product in St. Clair County is insufficient to ‘localize’ the business and make it an operation within that district,” the motion states.

St. Clair County is improper because none of the events in the complaint occurred there, the defendants argue. Rather, the plaintiffs are accused of basing venue choice on an allegation that the defendants “’advertised, marketed, promoted and sold [Actos]’” throughout Illinois.

“Plaintiff fails to identify or even allege a single fact of his cause of action that occurred or arose in St. Clair County,” the defendants state.

Lopinot granted the motion to transfer on Nov. 26.

According to the complaints filed Oct. 18, the plaintiffs allege they began taking Actos, which is manufactured by the defendants. As they were taking the medication, the plaintiffs claim they were unaware that taking the drug for more than 12 months provided an increased risk of developing bladder cancer.

The plaintiffs allege the defendants were aware of the increased risk of cancer, but failed to warn consumers of it, the suit states.

The defendants answered the complaint on Nov. 27, denying the allegations against them and demanding a trial by jury.

The 97-page answer also included 64 affirmative defenses against the plaintiffs, arguing that the plaintiffs assumed the risks associated with use and continued use of Actos. They also claim that any alleged injuries were caused by third-party entities the defendants had no authority or control over.

The defendants believe any alleged injuries occurred by “unforeseeable material and substantial alteration, change, improper handling or misuse of the drug.”

They argue that Actos and its warning methods were legal and approved by the Food and Drug Administration and were manufactured according to statutes and regulations, making the drug “not unreasonably dangerous.”

“Plaintiff is barred from recovering any damages by virtue of the fact that there was no practical or technically feasible alternative design or formulation that would have prevented the harm alleged by the plaintiff without substantially impairing the usefulness or intended purpose of the product,” the defendants state.

McLane, Steele, Warren and Watkins each seek a judgment of more than $1.75 million, plus costs and pre- and post-judgment interest.

Gregory J. Pals and John J. Driscoll of The Driscoll Firm in St. Louis are representing the plaintiffs.

John E. Galvin, Johnathan H. Garside, Margaret D. Gentzen of the Law Firm of Fox Galvin LLC in St. Louis are representing the defendants.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 13-L-537

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