Profiles in discourtesy

By The Madison County Record | Sep 28, 2008

The drug maker is based in Paris. Its U.S. headquarters are in New Jersey.

The drug has been approved in 90 countries. It counts some 30 million users the world over. The European Union approved it in 2001; our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) followed suit three years later.

So does it figure that the fate of Sanofi-Aventis' Ketek, an antibiotic commonly prescribed to treat mild respiratory infections in those suffering from pneumonia, might be decided here in the Metro-East, in the circuit courts of St. Clair County?

That's the hope of John Driscoll, the plaintiff's lawyer who would be world drug czar.

As reported by our Ann Knef, the St. Louis plaintiff's attorney can hardly contain himself on the subject. Alleging "consumer fraud," Driscoll is trying to file 60 lawsuits in Belleville simultaneously against the company---by plaintiffs from 27 different states.

"I'm going to burst. I'm going to burst," an emotional Driscoll told Judge Patrick Young during a hearing on the lawsuits last month.

Driscoll also was busy interrupting defense counsel Steven Strauss of Bryan Cave. Young admonished him like a grade school pupil unable to wait his turn.

"I want to tell you all five reasons I'm right, your honor. Not just one," Driscoll pleaded.

"As a lawyer, you're going to have to learn to contain yourself," replied Judge Young. "Or you make a fool of yourself or you force me to, and I don't want to do that."

"Forgive me," groveled Driscoll.

And Judge Young did. He listened to Strauss' common sense argument that Driscoll's 56 non-Illinois plaintiffs, each with different individual claims, shouldn't be allowed to sue together, much less venue shop. Then he summarily dismissed the argument.

The lawyer he threatened to dress down, won the day.

Metro-East judges seem wont to do this. They talk tough but rule gently, stepping carefully when the toes of the local plaintiff's bar are exposed.

That even could include those who get a verbal slap like Driscoll. His courtroom demeanor and theories of causation may be lacking, but his big ambition is not. And if he's successful suing a corporate giant like Sanofi-Aventis, he could soon be one of the big feet in town.

Who knows what Judge Young was thinking when he allowed this case to continue here. A rational explanation is not easy to find.

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