Two of the plaintiffs among those who have filed at least 14 federal lawsuits accusing Syngenta and Chevron of selling the herbicide paraquat despite knowing it causes Parkinson’s disease have asked the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate the cases for pretrial proceedings.

The lawsuits are spread across six different federal district courts, and all claim that exposure to paraquat manufactured and sold by Syngenta and Chevron caused “incurable and debilitating” Parkinson’s disease. They raise common factual questions focused on that same injury, and the litigation is already national in scope.

It makes most sense to centralize the litigation in California federal court in San Francisco, Rakoczy contends, as it’s within 40 miles of Chevron’s headquarters, allowing for easy access to documents and witnesses.

But Jerry Burnette, a plaintiff pursuing claims against Syngenta and Chevron in Illinois, said that while consolidation is “appropriate and warranted,” it shouldn’t happen in Rakoczy’s requested district because it is geographically inconvenient for all parties and counsel.


3rd Circ. Revives LivaNova Bacteria Exposure Suit

The Third Circuit revived a heart surgery patient’s suit against the former Sorin Group USA over claims that its heating-cooling device put him at risk of contracting bacterial infections, saying a lower court’s dismissal wrongly kept him from proceeding with his allegations in any court.

Last year, the lower court tossed plaintiff Kyle Hamer’s case because he didn’t have proof that he had a nontuberculous mycobacterium, or NTM, infection, which the district court required as part of a case management order in the MDL. 

Hamer alleged that he had heart surgery in 2017 in Louisiana using the 3T device, but afterward, he got an infection that doctors suspected was an NTM. The hospital where he had the surgery also saw similar issues with other patients who had surgeries using the 3T device.

While Hamer’s “treatment team never isolated NTM from any of the swabs or cultures,” he was told that “the lack of a positive NTM culture did not mean that he hadn’t had an NTM infection,” the panel said.

The panel said that the dismissal was an abuse of discretion, finding that the lower court “deprived Hamer of the opportunity to litigate his claims in any venue without consideration of how they might fare outside the MDL context.”


Rare Blood Clots Prompt Pause Of J&J COVID Vaccine

Federal health officials on Tuesday recommended a pause in the administration of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine pending a review of six U.S. cases of rare and serious blood clots among more than 6.8 million Americans who received the vaccine.

The blood clot condition is called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and appeared in the six U.S. cases along with low platelets, which ordinarily help with clotting. All six U.S. cases occurred in women ages 18 to 48 within six to 13 days of getting the vaccine, with one death. According to the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the blood clots “appear to be extremely rare.”

It remains unknown whether the blood clots are a side effect of the J&J vaccine or are caused by something else. Unfortunately, the blood clots can’t be treated with the anticoagulant drug heparin, which is the usual treatment for blood clots.

The blood clots prompting a pause in administration of the J&J vaccine in the U.S. appear similar to a rare clotting disorder that European health authorities think is possibly linked to AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which has not yet been authorized in the U.S.

Both the J&J vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine use modified versions of adenoviruses.

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said in a statement the pause in the J&J vaccine won’t significantly impact the U.S. vaccination plan.


Outdated Experts Doom Suit Tying Diabetes Drug To Cancer

A Los Angeles judge has thrown out more than 500 claims in a coordinated proceeding alleging that diabetes drugs made by Novo Nordisk, Merck, Eli Lilly and Amylin Pharmaceuticals cause pancreatic cancer, saying the plaintiffs’ experts failed to take into account all the available scientific literature on the subject.

In a 42-page ruling filed Tuesday, Judge William F. Highberger criticized the seven experts proffered by the plaintiffs, who alleged that the incretin-based therapies, such as Novo Nordisk Inc.’s medication Victoza, cause pancreatic cancer, saying that they ignored much of the available evidence, particularly data studies conducted in the last six years.

Three of the experts — toxicology expert Joseph Landolph, gastroenterology expert Graham Woolf and pathology expert Clive Taylor — by their own admission did not consider all of the available information, the judge wrote, while oncologist Robert Gale premised much of his opinion on the opinions of statisticians David Madigan and Martin Wells, leaving his opinion unreliable given the two others’ opinions were thrown out.

The remaining expert, cell biologist Thomas Brown, did plausibly explain how exposure to incretine in the drugs could stimulate cell growth, but his conclusion that this increased the risk of pancreatic cancer was “based on nothing more than hope or supposition,” the judge wrote, and Brown admitted that there was no link between that stimulated cell growth and cancer.

Without the support of credible expert opinions, the judge granted summary judgment to all four companies, but continued his analysis as to whether the claims are preempted under federal law.

The ruling does not affect claims in the coordinated proceeding that concern other diseases allegedly linked to the medications, and the judge asked the parties to file briefs with the court on how to address those cases.


Smoker’s Widow Asks Fla. High Court To Revive $5M Award

A smoker’s widow asked the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday to reinstate a $5 million punitive damages award against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., arguing that a law limiting punitive damages does not apply because the cause of action predates the 1999 law.

David Sales, who represents widow Mary Sheffield, told the justices in oral argument that the Fifth District Court of Appeal got it wrong when it determined that Sheffield’s wrongful death action arose upon her husband’s death in 2007 and not at the time he was first injured from smoking.

Sheffield’s husband, Valton, who was a member of the decertified landmark Engle v. Liggett class action suit against tobacco companies, had valid personal injury causes of action that predated the 1999 law, according to Sales.

But Noel Francisco, arguing on behalf of R.J. Reynolds, said that in the 1999 law, which applies “to all causes of action arising after the effective date,” the word “arise” applies to the cause of action, not to the tortious conduct at issue. The law bars punitive damages for conduct on which punitive damages have already been imposed against a defendant in any action alleging harm from the same conduct.

In a 2-1 ruling in February 2019, the Fifth District upheld a $1.8 million compensatory damages award for Sheffield but remanded the punitive damages portion of the jury’s verdict for further proceedings in the trial court, including a possible new trial on that issue.


When Staff Sgt. Benjamin Butler deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, he remembers the distinct green-and-yellow earplugs the Army issued to him as being uncomfortable and not blocking the sounds of aircraft and artillery the way they should have. He later developed premature hearing loss on one side and a ringing in his ears known as tinnitus.

Sgt. Butler, 31 years old, is among more than 200,000 service members and veterans who are suing 3M Co. , saying it knowingly sold defective earplugs that caused their hearing problems. The first trial, which combines the cases of three Army veterans, has opened in federal court in Pensacola, Fla., and is expected to last through April.

Minnesota-based 3M, which makes products ranging from N95 face masks to tape, said in a statement the earplugs weren’t defective. Its design reflected features the military requested, and the U.S. government not only had input in the products’ creation but also was responsible for training soldiers to use them, the company said.

The trial is one of three scheduled this year to give 3M and plaintiffs’ lawyers a sense of how jurors react to their competing narratives. If any trials end in large plaintiff awards, 3M could face building momentum and pressure to settle. A win in court by the company would likely extend the time before any resolution.

The service members blame 3M for hearing loss and tinnitus, alleging that the company knew for years that the second version of its Combat Arms Earplugs had a tendency to come loose and let in more sound than specified. They claim that 3M didn’t give the military adequate instructions on how to use the earplugs and that the technique to create a proper fit wasn’t intuitive.

Hearing loss is a chronic problem for military veterans. The Veterans Health Administration said it treated 444,796 veterans for hearing loss and 161,830 for tinnitus in the year ended in September.

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Consumers Say Kraft Mac And Cheese Uses Harmful Chemical

The Kraft Heinz Co. was hit Tuesday with a proposed class action claiming the company has unlawfully failed to inform its customers that its boxed macaroni and cheese product could contain harmful chemicals that could cause adverse health effects if consumed.

New York resident Gabrielle Stuve and Florida resident Jessica Nicodemo say that Chicago-based Kraft has falsely labeled and marketed its popular Macaroni & Cheese by failing to disclose on the packaging that the product either contains or risks containing endocrine-disrupting chemicals called ortho-phthalates.

Kraft’s failure to mention phthalates violates Illinois, Florida and New York consumer protection laws because it wrongly “leads reasonable consumers to believe the product is wholesome and healthy and does not contain dangerous chemicals” they alleged.

Scientific evidence over the years has increasingly linked phthalate exposure to decrease semen in men, endometriosis in women, increase waist circumference and body mass, and ADHD and antisocial behavior if exposed to unborn babies. and dairy has been a major source of phthalate exposure for consumers, according to the suit. That makes the cumulative effects of consuming phthalates concerning, particularly since studies show that about one in every five people get 81% of their calories from ultra-processed foods like powdered macaroni and cheese.

Kraft knew about the risks associated with phthalate exposure and intentionally chose not to disclose that risk on its macaroni and cheese box.

The plaintiffs are asking a court to block Kraft from continuing its allegedly unlawful conduct, require the company to “rectify all damages” its alleged misconduct has caused,  and award the proposed classes money to compensate injuries they’ve purportedly suffered.


Ga. Talc Co. Says Strict Liability Claims Over Cancer Too Late

A Georgia company that manufactured Johnson & Johnson talcum powder urged state appellate judges on Wednesday to dismiss as time-barred strict liability claims from a complaint alleging that the powder caused a Georgia woman’s ovarian cancer.

PTI Royston LLC asked the Georgia Court of Appeals to reverse a state trial court’s decision refusing to dismiss three strict liability claims brought as part of a suit filed in December 2019 by Shirley and Richard Eubanks. The trial court held that the clock didn’t begin to run on the Eubankses’ claims until Shirley Eubanks was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, citing the Georgia Asbestos Act of 2007. But Royston contends that a 10-year period for her to file suit began when she started to use the product in 1963.

Shirley Eubanks used Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder daily from 1963 until her cancer diagnosis. Royston argues that her strict liability claims thus had to be brought by 1973 under Georgia’s statute of repose, which places a 10-year deadline on such claims from the date of the first sale for use or consumption of the allegedly harmful product.

Roy E. Barnes of The Barnes Law Group LLC, an attorney for the Eubankses, said Johnson & Johnson knew from the 1970s that its talcum powder contained asbestos and that it was harmful, but it didn’t extract the asbestos from its baby powder or put any warning on the bottles.

Royston blended, tested, bottled and packaged Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder at its facility in Royston, Georgia, from August 2005 through 2019.

In 2020, Johnson & Johnson pulled its talc-based baby powder from the United States, but the company still sells it internationally, denying that it is harmful.


Business Groups Ask High Court To Review $2.1B J&J Verdict

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to review a Missouri jury’s $2.1 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson after finding its talcum powder products gave 22 women ovarian cancer, saying the consolidation of such cases hampers defendants’ due process rights.

In this injury litigation, in which 22 ovarian cancer patients and surviving spouses won $2.1 billion, of which $1.6 billion were punitive damages, the jury awarded each of the plaintiffs an identical amount as compensation for what the business groups said were widely varying injuries.

A Missouri appeals court cut the original $4.7 billion verdict by more than half, but left alone the jury’s finding that asbestos and other carcinogens in J&J’s talc products caused the women’s cancers. In November, the state’s high court refused to take up J&J’s appeal, leading the company to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Some observers of product liability law have questioned whether it’s fair to group plaintiffs with different outcomes, saying that alone can stoke higher punitive damages. If the high court does review the case, it could be a chance to place new constraints on juries’ power to award punitive damages.



Medical researchers in Israel are using algorithms to take details from real-life data sets, scramble them, and piece them back together to create an artificial patient that largely mirrors a real patient. This helps scientists innovate new solutions without the risk of sharing a real person’s private and sensitive medical data. 

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