Heygood, Orr & Pearson lawyers designated ‘Lead Plaintiffs’ Counsel’ in Watson Fentanyl Patch Products Liability Litigation

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by Charles Miller

Michael Heygood and other lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have been designated “Lead Plaintiffs’ Counsel” by the federal court presiding over more than twenty wrongful death lawsuits regarding the Watson fentanyl patch that have been consolidated for pretrial purposes. MDL No. 2372 — In re: Watson Fentanyl Patch Products Liability Litigation is pending before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The lawsuits were consolidated in August by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation because they share factual questions concerning alleged defects in the design, manufacture and marketing of the Watson fentanyl patch. Specifically, plaintiffs in all of the wrongful death cases contend that the reservoir design of the Watson patch is defective and prone to leakage and that the Watson fentanyl patch the decedent was wearing at the time of his or her death malfunctioned and delivered too much fentanyl, resulting in a lethal overdose.

Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous drug that is at least 80 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the FDA and is generally used to relieve pain.

Watson fentanyl transdermal system patches come in various sizes such as 25, 50, 75 and 100 mcg. The patch is a multi-layer system containing a gel which has the drug fentanyl in it. The patch utilizes a reservoir design, meaning that the fentanyl gel is inserted into a reservoir between two of the patch’s layers. The patch is applied by the patient and delivers fentanyl though the patient’s skin.

In the lawsuits, the Plaintiffs allege that Watson designs, manufactures, markets, and sells the fentanyl patches with the intention that they will release a certain amount of fentanyl into a patient at a certain rate and thus produce a certain level of fentanyl in the blood of the patient. In each of the consolidated cases, the Plaintiffs allege that the Watson fentanyl patch was unsafe for its intended or reasonably foreseeable use because it can and does leak and can cause patients to receive lethal doses of fentanyl.

The suits allege that prior to the time the patch was manufactured and distributed, numerous patients received lethal doses of fentanyl while using the patch as prescribed. Plaintiffs also allege that the Watson Defendants knew or should have known that patients were receiving lethal fentanyl doses from proper use of the patch because of studies, wrongful death lawsuits filed against them, the FDA’s adverse event reporting system and adverse event reports from medical examiners and the World Heath Organization.

The lawsuits also allege that another design for fentanyl patches existed at the time the patches were manufactured called the “matrix” design, and that Watson could have made fentanyl patches using a matrix design as opposed to a reservoir design. The matrix technology cannot leak fentanyl.

In 2008 and in 2009, Watson recalled fentanyl patches because of leaking patches.

The MDL court’s order provides that “[l]ead counsel for plaintiffs is hereby designated to be Michael Heygood … with James Orr, Charles Miller and David Pitcher designated as alternative plaintiffs’ lead counsel.” According to the order, “Lead Plaintiffs’ Counsel shall have the duty and responsibility to take the lead role in all aspects of this litigation from the plaintiffs’ perspective.” The duties include, for example, “[i]nitiating, coordinating, conducting, developing and proposing all appropriate

and/or necessary pretrial discovery, including scheduling matters, on behalf of plaintiffs in all actions consolidated as part of this multidistrict litigation” as well as “[e]xploring, developing, and pursuing all settlement options pertaining to any claim or portion of a claim that is a part of this litigation.”

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has successfully prosecuted more cases involving deaths due to fentanyl products than all the other firms in the country combined. We have spent years studying fentanyl, its uses and its misuses. We have deposed hundreds of doctors, scientists and experts on the subject of fentanyl products.

If you have lost a loved one due to a fentanyl product, contact our firm for a free consultation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free online contact form.