Levaquin settlements announced in lawsuits alleging tendon damage from antibiotic

by Charles Miller

Levaquin is an antibiotic used to treat a variety of bacterial infections, including upper respiratory infections. Numerous lawsuits have been filed around the country by people who had been prescribed Levaquin alleging the drug causes tendons to rupture. The lawsuits claim that defendants’ warnings about this alleged side effect were inadequate. Johnson & Johnson, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, LLC allegedly developed, manufactured and marketed Levaquin.

The plaintiffs in these lawsuits claim that Johnson & Johnson and its Ortho- McNeil Pharmaceutical unit failed to sufficiently warn that Levaquin was linked to an increased risk of tendon damage in elderly patients. The plaintiffs say Johnson & Johnson downplayed the risks to boost sales.

In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required all makers of antibiotics in Levaquin’s class, called fluoroquinolones, to increase warnings about tendon ruptures. The lawsuits claim Johnson & Johnson should have enhanced the warning before the FDA required it. The risk of tendon damage is higher for the elderly, and higher still for people taking the drug in combination with a steroid.

In 2010, a Minneapolis jury ordered the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals to pay 87-year-old John Schedin $1.7 million for actual damages and punitive damages flowing from injury to his Achilles tendons that he blamed on Levaquin. Federal multidistrict litigation involving the drug Levaquin has been centralized in the District of Minnesota and assigned to the Honorable John R. Tunheim as MDL No. 08-1943. Judge Tunheim is coordinating discovery and other pretrial matters in these cases.

Subsequent Levaquin tendon rupture cases filed in federal court will ordinarily be transferred to the District of Minnesota and become part of MDL No. 08-1943 as “tag along” cases. When discovery and other pretrial matters have been concluded, the cases will be transferred back to the districts in which they were originally filed for trial or other proceedings.

On May 20, 2013, the district court held a status conference. According to that conference, there are currently 1,879 cases pending in the MDL, involving 1892 plaintiffs. Of those cases, 1182 have been settled and 153 are currently in settlement negotiations. There are four cases pending in state jurisdictions, and no trial dates are set in those cases. There are 1228 active cases in New Jersey. Roughly 898 of those cases are currently subject to dismissal due to settlement.

Counsel for Defendants reported that settlement is progressing, and they are working closely with Magistrate Judge Boylan who will be reviewing settlement allocations in large groups. Defense counsel also stated they were waiting to prepare a final suggestion of remand order until settlement negotiations are completed and they can ascertain with more certainty which cases will be subject to remand. The suggested remand order will allow Plaintiffs 30 days to file any objections to remand. Counsel anticipate that the MDL will be completed in July 2013. The next Status Conference is scheduled for Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 12:30PM.

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If you have been injured or have lost someone you care about because of defective or dangerous prescription drugs or medical devices, you deserve to have the manufacturer held responsible and to receive proper compensation. Contact us for a free consultation by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001 or by filling out the free consultation form on this website to find out more about your legal options.


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by Charles Miller

Charles Miller is a licensed attorney and a partner at Heygood, Orr & Pearson. Charles focuses his practice on areas of complex commercial litigation and personal injury litigation.