U.S. District Judge David Herndon has been assigned to handle multi-district litigation over Pradaxa, a blood thinning medication alleged to have caused serious and fatal bleeding in users throughout the nation.
Last week, the U.S. Panel on Multi District Litigation approved plaintiff Vera Seller's May request for the creation of a MDL.
Sellers is one of about 20 plaintiffs who have filed complaints in the East St. Louis federal court since May against the drug's manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals.
In addition to claims that Pradaxa caused bleeding, the suits accuse the defendants of failing to warn users of the drug's risks, including the potential for severe or fatal bleeding, and the lack of a reversal agent to counteract Pradaxa's anticoagulation effects.
The panel said in its transfer order that the geographic location of Herndon's court, as well as his experience with multi-district litigation and the number of cases filed over Pradaxa there, led it to choose the Southern District of Illinois as the transferee district for the MDL.
Court records show that eight cases over the pharmaceutical drug were filed in the Southern District of Illinois in May, followed by three in June, eight in July and one earlier this month for a total of 20 as of Tuesday.
The Pradaxa MDL currently consists of 21 complaints from 11 different districts courts, according to the panel's order.
The order includes the first eight cases filed in East St. Louis in the MDL's "Schedule A," along with four cases from Kentucky, four from Tennessee, two from Louisiana and one case each from Connecticut, Florida and Oklahoma.
The local cases filed in June, July and August, as well as additional suits from across the nation, will likely be added to the MDL in the near future.
While the panel said in its order that all of the responding parties agreed that centralization of the Pradaxa claims was needed, they disagreed as to which court should be assigned to handle the multi-district litigation.
Most of the plaintiffs in Illinois, Louisiana and Tennessee supported the Southern District of Illinois as the transferee district.
Plaintiffs in some of the other pending suits and potential tag-along actions, however, suggested the Northern District of Ohio, as well as federal courts in Florida and New York, as the transferee district with the East St. Louis court as the alternative.
The panel pointed out that the responding defendants were the only parties that did not support centralization in the Southern District of Illinois as either a first choice or an alternative. Instead, they sought the District of Connecticut as the transferee district with either the Eastern districts of Kentucky or Tennessee as alternatives.
In its order, the panel first explained that because the actions against the defendants involve common questions of fact, centralization of the suits will "serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation."
The panel also said creating the multi-district litigation "will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary."
When it came to choosing a transferee district, the panel said it was "presented with a number of attractive choices," but determined that the federal court in East St. Louis was the most appropriate venue for several reasons.
First, the panel said in its order that 13 of 40 Pradaxa-related actions, which include potential tag-alongs to the MDL, are pending in East St. Louis.
Second, the panel said that "the Southern District of Illinois' geographically central location and accessibility also commend it for this nationwide products liability litigation."
"Further, centralization in this district will facilitate coordination with pending state court litigation, including an action pending in Southern Illinois encompassing claims over of seventy plaintiffs," the order states.
And lastly, the panel said that by assigning Herndon to the matter, "we are selecting a jurist with the willingness and ability to handle this litigation."
It dubbed Herndon an "experienced MDL judge" who "has deftly presided over" multi-district litigation dealing with claims against the Yasmin-line of birth control pills. That MDL includes more than 9,000 claims.
Boehringer, a Delaware corporation based in Connecticut, launched Pradaxa in North America in 2010 after the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for the prevention of stroke and blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm condition.
The 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.