People who got cancer after taking Valsartan that was contaminated with NDMA may be able to join a Valsartan MDL (multi-district litigation). An MDL combines similar lawsuits into one court in an effort to streamline litigation and encourage a settlement. An MDL against the Valsartan pharmaceutical companies recently formed in New Jersey.
If the MDL is successful, the Valsartan lawsuit plaintiffs may receive large financial damages to pay for all their Valsartan-related injuries, including pain and suffering. In this article, our personal injury lawyers will discuss the following topics:
- 1. What MDLs are
- 2. How MDLs work
- 3. MDLs versus class actions
- 4. Benefits of MDLs
- 5. Cons of MDLs
- 6. Compensation
- 7. Valsartan MDL
- 8. Hiring a personal injury attorney
MDLs (short for multi-district litigation) are common in cases against pharmaceutical companies when there are thousands of plaintiffs with similar claims and injuries. In MDLs, all plaintiffs temporarily consolidate their cases in an effort to expedite pretrial litigation and negotiation of a global settlement.
Whenever there are several similar personal injury cases throughout the U.S., they may all be joined into an MDL in one federal court. This one court will then preside during the following pretrial proceedings:
- compiling evidence (“discovery”),
- motions to dismiss the case,
- motions for summary judgment,
- evidentiary challenges,
- depositions (witnesses testifying under oath with a court reporter),
- interrogatories (witnesses writing answers to opposing counsel’s questions under oath), and
- settlement offers
The judge will then let a few of the plaintiffs go to trial — these are called “bellwether trials.” The results of these bellwether trials serve as a valuable gauge of how all the other plaintiffs’ cases would turn out if they went to trial also.
Once these bellwether trials are over, the plaintiffs and defendants are in a more informed and empowered position to engage in settlement talks. But if settlement negotiations fail, then the MDL dissolves and sends each individual case back to its original district court for trial.
MDLs and class action lawsuits both serve to expedite litigation but are in fact very different legal mechanisms. The three main distinctions are:
- Whereas class actions combine all claims and plaintiffs into one lawsuit, MDLs simply transfer all lawsuits into one court;
- Whereas class actions combine cases throughout the whole court process, MDLs combine cases only during the pretrial phase; and
- Whereas plaintiffs need to get “certified” as a class before a class action can move forward, MDLs do not require plaintiffs to certify their class
MDLs are often a good idea for the following reasons:
- MDLs typically cut down on the amount of time plaintiffs and their attorneys need to spend preparing for a case, including doing depositions and extensive discovery.
- All the plaintiffs’ attorneys work as a team by sharing information and strategies, and this may strengthen each other’s cases.
- Since MDLs reduce court costs for the individual plaintiffs, each plaintiff should be able to recover a larger settlement (if there is one).
- Because MDLs are high-profile, plaintiffs may have the “court of public opinion” on their side; this in turn could pressure defendants to settle.
- If the bellwether trials resolve in the plaintiffs’ favor, the remaining plaintiffs are likely to receive a generous settlement.
MDLs have their drawbacks, too, including:
- Plaintiffs may feel alienated from their case. Once it is part of an MDL, it is probably being heard several hundreds if not thousands of miles away from the plaintiff’s residence. And they may feel detached from the legal process.
- Since MDLs are efficient for defendants as well, the defendants may take advantage of the reduced court costs to mount a more aggressive defense or employ delay tactics.
- MDLs usually take place in the district where the defendant is located, and the judge could feel pressured to protect local corporations.
The goal of MDLs is for the defendant(s) to agree to a large settlement that will compensate plaintiffs for their economic and non-economic expenses. This typically includes:
- medical bills (including home nursing care and rehab);
- pain and suffering;
- lost wages (including bonuses and tips) while the plaintiff was too ill to work; and
- loss of future earnings that the plaintiff will be too ill to earn
Even if the plaintiff passes away before the MDL resolves, his/her estate can continue the lawsuit. (Note that the family of a person who died from the defendant’s wrongdoing can also file a wrongful death suit against the defendant.)
Should the case go to trial, everything depends on the verdict. If the defendant wins, the plaintiff gets nothing. But if the plaintiff wins, the plaintiff may be entitled not only to compensatory damages (listed above) but also punitive damages.
Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their wrongful behavior as well as to deter other people and companies from engaging in the same wrongdoing. In many cases, punitive damages can far exceed the amount of compensatory damages.
Currently, there is a Valsartan MDL out of the federal District of New Jersey before the Honorable Robert B. Kugler. The MDL number is 2875.
The initial Case Management Conference was held on March 27, 2019. Only 40 cases were consolidated into the MDL, but thousands of others (“tag-along” cases) are expected to join soon.
Judge Kugler has ordered that both sides agree to monthly, in-person status conferences to update the court on the litigation. There will also be a monthly teleconference.
This Valsartan MDL was formed less than a year after the FDA notified medical providers and the public about the voluntary recall of the blood pressure drug Valsartan containing unsafe amounts of NDMA (N-nitrosodimethylamine). Since NDMA is a “probable carcinogen,” it is likely that some of the people who took Valsartan developed cancer because of it.1
If you or a loved one has taken contaminated blood pressure medication and has been diagnosed with cancer, please contact us at Shouse Law Group.
Although we are based in California, we are bringing lawsuits on behalf of cancer victims throughout the United States.
Please contact us soon before your Valsartan statute of limitations passes.
- “Initial Court Conference Kicks Off Valsartan Litigation in New Jersey Monday“, The National Law Review (April 22, 2019); Transfer Order, MDL 2875; FDA announces voluntary recall of several medicines containing valsartan following detection of an impurity, FDA (July 13, 2018).