Jon Campisi Aug. 8, 2013, 12:27pm


The federal judge in Philadelphia who currently presides over the Zoloft products

liability litigation has just been handed a new MDL case docket by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

In an Aug. 6 transfer order, the judicial panel sent U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, nine civil actions against Pfizer and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals that had been filed in five different District Courts across the country over the drug Effexor.

The lawsuits contain common allegations that the defendants’ antidepressant medication caused birth defects in children born to women who used the product while pregnant.

The allegations are similar to those in the Zoloft MDL being overseen by Rufe.

Five of the complaints were filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, while the other four were filed in the Southern District of California, the Northern District of Illinois, the Northern District of Mississippi and the Northern District of Ohio respectively.

According to the transfer order, Pfizer and Wyeth suggested centralization at the District of New Jersey as an alternative venue, but the judicial panel determined that consolidation at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is more appropriate because it would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the “just and efficient conduct of this litigation.”

“We are persuaded that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is an appropriate forum for this litigation,” the panel wrote, noting that Wyeth is headquartered in the district and at least five of the lawsuits are pending in Philadelphia.

Centralization, the panel wrote, will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, namely with respect to class certification; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.

The panel also noted that the claims in the Effexor cases mirror those in the Zoloft MDL, which is already before Rufe, and the litigation also involves Pfizer as a common defendant.

Rufe, who is currently presiding over an Effexor tag-along action, “is in a unique position to guide this litigation, involving some of the same parties and counsel as [the Zoloft MDL], to an efficient resolution,” the transfer order states.

The order was signed by John G. Heyburn, II, the chairman of the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

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