Attorneys for Pfizer removed a Madison County Bextra suit to federal court claiming it will inform the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) that the suit is a potential tag-along action to a panel in the Northern District of California (MDL-1699).

"This case is expected to transfer to the MDL Court in due course," Pfizer's attorney Barney Shultz of Heyl Royster wrote.

Rita Fohne of Lebanon filed suit against Pfizer April 2 seeking damages for personal injuries and economic damages she allegedly suffered while taking the now-recalled prescription medication.

Represented by Robert Rowland and Aaron Dickey of the Goldenberg firm in Edwardsville, Fohne claims she suffered a heart attack and cardiovascular injuries due to clotting or thrombosis, and claims Bextra was the direct and proximate cause.

Like Vioxx and Celebrex, Bextra is a Cox-2 inhibitor and was approved by the FDA on Nov. 16, 2001, for the relief of symptoms of osteoarthritis and adult rheumatoid arthritis.

On April 7, 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested that Pfizer suspend sales of Bextra in the U.S.

Shultz also claims jurisdiction lies in federal court because Fohne seeks recovery of an amount in excess of $75,000, exclusive of costs and interest.

"Plaintiff seeks unlimited damages in excess of the state-court $50,000 jurisdictional minimum in each of her eight counts for the personal injuries she allegedly sustained from using Bextra," Shultz wrote.

He also claims where liability is established, product liability claims in Illinois typically result in substantially more than $75,000 verdicts, particularly where the plaintiff alleges serious injuries as Fohne does.

Shultz also contends removal is proper because there is complete diversity of citizenship between Fohne, an Illinois resident, and Pfizer, a New York and Delaware resident.

According to the complaint, at the time Bextra was sold to Fohne it was defective in design and unreasonably dangerous, subjecting her to risks of heart attacks, strokes, and other illnesses which exceeded the benefits of the product when safer products where available.

She also claims that Pfizer failed to perform adequate testing and study of Bextra prior to marketing it or ignored existing data which would have allegedly shown the drug to possess serious life threatening side effects.

Fohne also claims that the drug did not come with proper warnings regarding adverse side effects associated with its use and the comparative severity and duration of the side effects.

According to the complaint, Pfizer actually knew of the defective nature of its product, yet continued to design, manufacture, market, distribute and sell it to maximize sales and profits at the expense of the general public's health and safety.

Pfizer also filed its answer to the complaint claiming that there is not any legal or factual basis for the purported causes of action and/or damages sought by Fohne.

Pfizer also claims that Bextra was and still is safe and effective when used in accordance with its FDA-approved prescribing information.

It also claims that the potential effects of Bextra were and are adequately described in its FDA approved prescribing information, which was at all times adequate and comported with applicable standards of care and law.

Pfizer also claims that if Fohne sustained any injuries or incurred any losses or damages as alleged in her complaint, it was caused by the unforeseeable alterations, improper handling, or other unforeseeable misuse of Bextra.

Sherry A. Knutson of Sidley Austin in Chicago also represents Pfizer.

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