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Scott Kappes
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J & J Fighting Levaquin Bellwether Consolidation

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Levaquin maker Johnson & Johnson is fighting attempts by plaintiffs to consolidate the first three bellwether levaquin lawsuits in to one trial.

The company is facing hundreds of levaquin lawsuits that have been filed in both state and federal courts. The lawsuits allege that the company’s popular antibiotic medication, Levaquin, is the cause of tendon ruptures, tendonitis, and other tendon problems that have been suffered by patients who have taken the medication.

Levaquin lawsuits filed in federal court have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District court of Minnesota.

The first cases selected for trial are known as Bellwether cases. Bellwether trials play an important role in determining how a jury will react to the issues of that are present throughout the MDL and potentially laying the groundwork for a possible settlement.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have proposed to consolidate the first three Bellwether cases into a single trial, claiming that the cases have similar injuries, claims, and situations and that would be more efficient for the court to handle them as a single trial.

Attorneys for the Johnson & Johnson, and it subsidiary Ortho-McNeil, disagree and argue that the potential differences in plaintiffs’ medical history and unique injuries suffered by each plaintiff may confuse the jury.

After years of pressure from the consumer advocates group Public Citizen, in July of 2008 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally required the makers of Levaquin and other similar medications to update the warning labels for the class of antibiotics known as floroquinoles. The updated label now carries the FDA’s strongest available warning, the infamous black box warning, for an increased risk of tendon problems including tendon rupture in users of Levaquin and other flouroquinolone antibiotics.