by: Edward B. Mulligan V, Attorney
On February 12, 2013, the federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) transferred some 134 cases filed against New England Compounding Center, the now-notorious seller of contaminated steroid injections, to the District of Massachusetts for consolidated pretrial proceedings. While a group of plaintiffs argued for consolidation in Minnesota, the JPML opted to send the cases to the District of Massachusetts, where NECC is headquartered. The consolidation of the civil cases in the District of Massachusetts is designed to eliminate duplicative discovery and prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings. It will also help to conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary, particularly in light of the fact that that the NECC bankruptcy case is also pending in the District of Massachusetts. The litigation is captioned In Re New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc. Products Liability Litigation and will be run by Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV, who already issued a broad evidentiary preservation order in December and ruled that the plaintiffs could inspect NECC’s premises.
Rarely does a month go by without a pharmaceutical or medical device company making headline news for illegal marketing or failing to disclose dangerous side effects of its products. Many times the conduct is so egregious you are left wondering how a drug or device even made it to the market in the first place. Surely the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the worldwide regulatory “gold” standard, would not have approved a product that was bad for us? Conventional wisdom tells us that the FDA is the gatekeeper for our safety. The FDA monitors and tests all products so its rubber stamp of approval must be absolute proof that consumers are safe? Unfortunately, this is an example where perception varies greatly from reality.
I recently had a conversation with a lawyer for a large pharmaceutical manufacturer. We were discussing the merits of a particular mass tort case. Near the end of our talk, he asked me whether I believed the pharmaceutical industry had any good intentions or purpose. I was a little shocked by his question and believe he asked me because of the heated debate that we had. I obviously gave him the impression that I was for the immediate destruction of the pharmaceutical industry, but this is not the case.
I am a trial lawyer. I make my living representing injured plaintiffs. I chose my profession because I believe in helping people. Many of the clients that I represent have had their lives permanently changed because of a defective medical device or drug. I feel a great sense of duty to help these people seek justice and receive compensation for their injuries so they can put their lives back together.
People generally assume that because someone is a lawyer, they must know about every area of law. While lawyers might have a basic understanding of multiple areas of law, asking a tax lawyer about class actions and mass torts, is the equivalent of asking a pediatrician about brain surgery. While the paths of class actions and mass torts may cross paths, they are separate and distinct legal proceedings. People often, understandably, confuse the two.