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Three MDLs to Watch in 2017

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

As the first major verdicts and settlements of are announced, here are three multidistrict litigations (MDLs) from 2016 that are likely to make headlines in the legal community in 2017.

GM Ignition Switch MDL  

Plaintiffs in the suit allege that General Motors knowingly sold vehicles with faulty ignition switches to consumers, including models under the Pontiac, Chevy and Saturn brands. Plaintiffs further claim that the auto giant was fully aware that if the ignition switch in a vehicle moved out of the “run” position while the vehicle was in motion, the power steering, power brakes and airbags would all be disabled.

GM settled approximately 1,300 defective ignition suits filed against it involving death and injury claims in 2015 for $575 million. The settlement, however, did not resolve all claims.

In 2016, the first set of bellwether cases in the MDL commenced. The first trial resulted in a defense victory; however, the jury found that the GM vehicle in question was unreasonably dangerous. In the five other bellwether trials, one was dismissed by the plaintiff before trial, one was dropped midway through trial by the plaintiff due to claims that plaintiff was falsifying financial documents and the other three cases were settled before trial.

Presiding Judge Jesse Furman was sent a list of possible bellwether cases in January 2017. Many in the legal community believe that this litigation will likely come to a close in 2017.

The MDL is: In re: General Motors Ignition Switch Litigation, case number 1:14-md-02543, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

DePuy Pinnacle Hip MDL

The DePuy Pinnacle Hip MDL has seen major plaintiff success in 2016 and many are projecting that this momentum will bring forth more plaintiff victories in 2017. Plaintiffs allege that the Pinnacle hip implants, manufactured by DePuy Orthopedics Inc. (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), are defectively designed. As a result, the metal-on-metal device has been shown to break down causing metal debris to be released and absorbed by the surrounding tissue. Patients have reported experiencing a multitude of problems including metallosis or having to undergo revision surgery.

Plaintiffs argue that DePuy was well aware of the product’s major flaws, however instead of issuing a recall, the defendant continued to aggressively market its hip implant device as the best option for patients with an active lifestyle.

In March 2016, a Texas jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded a $497.6 million verdict, which was later reduced by Judge Kinkeade to $150 million. In addition, two bellwethers went to trial and came back with huge plaintiff victories. In December 2016, the third bellwether, comprised of six plaintiffs, went to trial and resulted in a staggering $1.05 billion verdict. The next set of bellwether trials in this MDL is set to begin in September 2017. 

The MDL is: In re: DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:11-md-02244, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Xarelto MDL

 The Xarelto MDL is sure to make major legal headlines in 2017 with the first set of bellwether trials slated to begin in March. The drug has consistently been among the top-selling blood thinners drugs in America since its market debut in 2011. Defendants, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Bayer Corp, have promoted Xarelto as a more convenient alternative to the popular blood thinning drug, Coumadin. Unlike Coumadin, Xarelto requires very little monitoring or dosage adjustments and is therefore marketed as a better medication for patients with a busy schedule. However, Xarelto does not have an antidote which poses a serious risk to patients of fatal bleeding occurring, whereas the effects of Coumadin can be counteracted with vitamin K.

The MDL is: In re: Xarelto (Rivaroxaban) Products Liability Litigation, case number 2:14-md-02592, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.


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