Another Centralized Pharmaceutical Litigation in New Jersey?

As we have posted about before, New Jersey has an established system for coordinated, centralized litigation involving claims against pharmaceuticals and medical devices.  While the nomenclature has recently changed from “mass tort” to “multicounty litigation” the process and procedures remain the same.

A new addition to New Jersey’s lineup of centralized pharmaceutical and medical device litigation may be in the offing:  this week, the New Jersey Judiciary posted an application submitted by Weitz & Luxenberg to formally centralize litigation involving two different hip stems manufactured by New Jersey’s Howmedica Osteonics Corporation d/b/a Stryker Orthopaedics.  Comments to the application are due by November 30, 2012, after which a decision on whether to not to grant the application will be made.

According to the application, there are currently 10 filed cases, and plaintiffs’ counsel promises more.  The claims arise out of alleged failures of the hip implants, which the plaintiffs’ application notes were recalled earlier this year.  The plaintiffs’ application seeks centralization of these and any subsequently filed cases before Judge Brian Martinotti in Bergen County, rather than before Judge Carol Higbee in Atlantic County (where other litigation against Stryker involving a different hip implant is pending).   Among other reasons, the plaintiffs assert that the Stryker litigation pending in Atlantic County has largely been voluntarily dismissed and that Bergen County is closer in proximity to Stryker’s headquarters.  The plaintiffs also suggest that Judge Martinotti has experience with other orthopedic implant litigation and that ongoing settlements in other centralized litigation mean that he and his staff have the administrative capacity to take on this new litigation.

The plaintiffs’ just-filed application has drawn the attention of commentators from ProductLiabilityLaw360 (subscription required) and the New Jersey Law Journal (free registration required).  Earlier this summer, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied an application for centralization without providing much explanation, leaving practitioners in this area without the guidance of the Court’s thinking.  Regardless of whether or not the Court grants this application, a decision that explains why or why not would certainly be of interest to many.

 

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