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Blood-thinner Pradaxa target of mass-claims suit

admin » 09 November 2012 » In Defective Products, FDA, Legal News, Mass Tort » No Comments

After taking the blood-thinning drug Pradaxa for three weeks, Charles Jackson experienced intestinal bleeding. His doctor told him to get off the drug, which he began taking after suffering a stroke last September.

Months later, Jackson, 75, a retired truck driver from the rural railroad community of Hohenwald, saw a television advertisement imploring patients who had complications with Pradaxa to dial 1-800-BAD-DRUG to learn more about joining a lawsuit against the drug company.

Now Jackson is among hundreds of other patients around the country who are teaming against an anti-stroke drug whose sales eclipsed $1 billion last year. Joining the suit thrusts Jackson into the high-dollar stream of product liability lawsuits, a burgeoning world of mass claims in which specialty law firms cast a wide net for injured consumers who represent the pitfalls of marketing risky products.

Spearheading the Pradaxa litigation is the San Antonio-based law firm of attorney Mikal Watts, a prominent product liability attorney and deep-pocketed Democratic fundraiser.

Watts, who recently hosted President Barack Obama at his home for a private fundraiser, filed tens of thousands of claims for redress after a $20 billion fund was set up to handle claims from the 2010 Gulf oil spill. He was responsible for an $800 million settlement after winning a case against Ford and Firestone alleging defective tires and vehicle parts, one of the country’s largest product liability payouts.

Pradaxa, Watts wagers, could be the country’s next blockbuster civil settlement.

Emily Baier, a spokeswoman for Pradaxa’s company, Boehringer Ingelheim, declined to comment on the lawsuit, though she said safety is the company’s chief priority.

The drug has been under attack by physicians groups and patient advocates since 3,781 adverse effects and 542 deaths associated with Pradaxa were reported last year to the Food and Drug Administration. Its adverse reports and deaths surpassed all other monitored drugs. The FDA is now conducting a safety review of the drug, which millions of people around the country take twice a day.

Yet some legal observers say the case exposes the seams of mass litigation: Clients like Jackson are treated as no more than a claim number. And the fairest outcome for Jackson and numerous others, experts say, will not result from a collective suit in which cherry-picked examples stand-in for hundreds of individual stories.

“It’s going to be one of the larger mass torts in the history of the United States,” said Ryan L. Thompson, attorney with Watts Guerra Craft, who is working on scores of cases including Jackson’s, with a team of 70 employees dedicated to the Pradaxa suit.

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Thousands opting out of BP Gulf spill settlement

admin » 01 November 2012 » In Legal News » No Comments

The architects of a proposed class-action settlement of claims spawned by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are confident it won’t be derailed by thousands of businesses and individuals opting out of the deal.

Thursday is the deadline for claimants to postmark written requests to opt out of the multibillion-dollar pact between BP PLC and a team of plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Patrick Juneau, administrator of the court-supervised claims process, said roughly 2,300 potential plaintiffs had asked to opt out as of Wednesday. But Juneau said a final number won’t be known until early next week. And some of the opt-out requests are coming from people who aren’t eligible to participate in the settlement, he added.

BP has the right to terminate the settlement agreement if an undisclosed number of claimants opt out of the deal.

Steve Herman, one of the lead plaintiffs’ attorneys, said in an email that he sees “very little chance” that the deal will fall apart based on the number of opt outs.

“Compared to the thousands and thousands of claims that have been filed, and recognized, the number of opt outs is very low,” Herman wrote. “In fact, many of the objections are from people who are outside of the settlement that want to get into the deal.”

BP estimates it will pay $7.8 billion to resolve claims through the uncapped settlement of economic damage and medical claims from the 2010 disaster.

BP spokesman Scott Dean said the company believes the agreement is “an historic resolution that is fair and reasonable and amply meets all the legal requirements for final approval” by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. The judge will decide whether to give it his final approval following a “fairness hearing” on Nov. 8.

“The settlement is a superior alternative to continued lengthy litigation, provides numerous unique claimant-friendly benefits, and fulfills BP’s commitment to pay all legitimate claims stemming from the Deepwater Horizon accident,” Dean said in a statement.

Roughly 75,000 new claims have been filed since the court-supervised claims process took over for the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which was administered by Kenneth Feinberg. Juneau said his team has made offers to nearly 11,500 eligible claimants worth a total of more than $861 million. About 97 percent of the claimants who responded to those offers have accepted them, he added.

“I’ve never heard of one being this high,” Juneau said of that acceptance rate. “I think it speaks to the claimants’ view of the program.”

Some attorneys with large stables of clients have a dimmer view of the deal, however.

Brent Coon, a Houston-based lawyer, said roughly 5,000 of his 14,000 clients with spill-related claims will ask to opt out of the settlement. Coon said most of them haven’t received offers from Juneau’s team and don’t know how much money, if any, they stand to receive.

“The biggest problem with the class is there is no certainty,” he said. “I can’t tell clients to stay in the class when I can’t tell if they’re going to be paid or not.”

During a hearing last week, Barbier warned claimants that it could take years for them to resolve their claims if they opt out of the settlement and pursue their cases individually.

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