Since 2019, litigation involving pharmaceutical companies has accounted for a significant percentage of all lawsuits. The plurality of these cases are wide-reaching healthcare product-liability suits involving hundreds of plaintiffs. This analysis is an update to Law Street’s previous examination, and further delves into the subject matter and firms representing plaintiffs seeking recompense for alleged damages.
Across the federal district courts, the vast plurality of cases have been filed in the District of New Jersey, where many pharmaceutical companies are based. Two other federal districts account for vast quantities of cases: the Southern District of Florida and the Eastern District of Louisiana. The former is a venue for the majority of cases surrounding Ranitidine, a medicine used to decrease stomach acid production. The latter is the venue for litigation concerning Xarelto, a blood-thinner.
As to the circuit courts, the Second Circuit has seen the most cases, 44, followed closely by the Federal Circuit, 43. The Third Circuit, which includes New Jersey, saw 33 cases; the Eleventh and Fifth Circuits, which include Florida and Louisiana respectively, saw 13 cases each. The cases heard by the Federal Circuit are unique among the rest, since they solely concern patent suits where the pharmaceutical companies appealed rulings against them.
A small, but notable percentage of cases were heard in various bankruptcy courts, primarily in the District of New Jersey and the Southern District of Illinois.
Johnson & Johnson
By far, the largest target for litigation is Johnson & Johnson. Like the others, most of their cases have had the Nature of Suit (NOS) code 367 Healthcare/Pharmaceutical Personal Injury Product Liability, though they have also seen a number of cases under other personal injury/liability NOS codes. They usually work with Shook, Hardy & Bacon, though they also work with Drinker Biddle & Reath and Butler Snow for thousands of cases.
On the other side of the courtroom, Onder Law, Fears Nachawati, and Ashcraft & Gerel have been the top firms suing the pharmaceutical giant. Onder Law and Ashcraft & Gerel have focused primarily on litigation concerning asbestos-contaminated baby powder. Fears Nachawati, on the other hand, has focused on the blood thinner Xarelto (generic: rivaroxaban). Plaintiffs allege that Johnson & Johnson did not meaningfully warn patients that the drug might increase bleeding.
While targeted only one quarter as much as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer stands as the pharmaceutical company involved in the second most amount of litigation. Their suits follow the same pattern as Johnson & Johnson with mostly healthcare/pharmaceutical personal/product liability cases, with a handful of other product liability/tort cases, and another handful of patent cases. They primarily work with DLA Piper, though they also send a fair bit of work to Katz, Teller, Brant & Hild.
As to the firms facing Pfizer, Morgan & Morgan and Keller Postman have led the charge, the former in the District of New Jersey and the latter in the Southern District in Florida. Both firms have focused on cases concerning the stomach acid reducer Ranitidine. Plaintiffs allege they incurred damages because the drug was contaminated with N-nitrosodimethylamine, a known carcinogen.
Close behind Pfizer is AstraZeneca. Their top two firms of choice are McCarter & English and Ice Miller. Again, the vast majority of their cases fall under the NOS code 367, though they, like the other companies, also handle some other product liability, patent, and antitrust cases.
AstraZeneca has been primarily targeted by Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz and Weitz & Luxenberg. These suits cover Proton Pump Inhibitors, which the plaintiffs allege cause kidney failure, among other damaging side effects.
Merck has dealt with similar litigation to AstraZeneca. Most of their cases have been part of the bundle surrounding Proton Pump Inhibitors. Merck tends to work with Venable, followed by McCarter & English and Ice Miller.