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Tepezza Lawsuit Update: Insights Behind the First Case Management Order

Tepezza Lawsuit Update: Insights Behind the First Case Management Order

tepezza case management order

Tepezza Lawsuit: First Case Management Order Insight

 

a gavel and stethoscope

Ongoing Tepezza litigation, which revolves around claims of permanent hearing damage and Tinnitus associated with the thyroid eye disease drug.

 

Here are the latest developments in the ongoing Tepezza litigation, which revolves around claims of permanent hearing damage and Tinnitus associated with the thyroid eye disease drug. The article also highlights the legal actions pursued by plaintiffs against the manufacturer, shedding light on the evolving landscape on this litigation.

The Tepezza Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation will be overseen by Judge Thomas M. Durkin. As of June 2, 2023, It is underway in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division (Case number 23 C 3568, MDL No. 3079).

 

Introduction to Tepezza Litigation and Hearing Damage Claims

 

horizon company in tepezza lawsuit

Horizon Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical firm dedicated to discovering, creating, and marketing drugs for patients suffering from rare and rheumatic diseases. However, the issue over Tepezza is currently obscuring the company’s reputation for innovation.

 

Tepezza (teprotumumab-trbw), a biologic treatment developed by Horizon Therapeutics, was introduced in January 2020 to treat thyroid eye disease and bulging eyes. However, despite initial expectations of Tepezza being a specialized treatment with limited market impact, the reported adverse effects have garnered significant attention.

Plaintiffs allege that the manufacturer did not warn patients and the medical community about the potential risks of hearing loss and tinnitus for many individuals.

Horizon’s defense strategy to the lawsuits against its company for failure to warn has been to seek dismissal. The company opposed the consolidation based upon the premise these cases lack similar questions of fact.

The motion requesting consolidation references at least 18 Tepezza cases pending in five federal districts. The pace of new Tepezza hearing loss cases continues to accelerate, with ten new lawsuits filed in federal courts over the last week of May 2023.

 

Below is a timeline of events related to the MDL.

  • August 25, 2022: The first lawsuit was filed by Daniel Weibel, a Tepezza patient who has experienced permanent hearing loss.
  • March 2023: Plaintiffs filed a motion to transfer and consolidate cases into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in California.
  • April 2023: Horizon filed a motion opposing the formation of the MDL
  • June 2, 2023: The JPML consolidated cases against Horizon under MDL 3079 on June 2, 2023 for coordinated pretrial proceedings, which was done to promote judicial efficiency, avoid duplicative discovery, and prevent inconsistent pretrial decisions. The cases will be presided by Judge Thomas Durkin in the Northern District of Illinois, provided clarity on the management of the cases within the MDL.
  • June 12, 2023: A group of Tepezza lawyers filed a motion on June 12, proposing a slate of attorneys to serve in leadership positions in the Tepezza MDL. The unopposed motion calls for three attorneys to serve as co-lead counsel- one liaison counsel, and an eight-person executive committee. These proposed attorneys represent law firms with a strong track record in mass tort litigation. Their involvement signifies the significance of the Tepezza MDL. By appointing attorneys to various leadership positions, the court aims to ensure effective management and representation of the plaintiff’s interests in the complex litigation.
  • June 16, 2023: Judge Durkin issued a case management order on June 16. Details are below.
  • June 28, 2023: The first status conference is scheduled for June 28. Among the agendas is allowing consolidated complaints involving multiple plaintiffs who have suffered hearing damage due to Tepezza.

 

Insight Into Case Management Order

 

Below are some details about the first case management order and upcoming conference on June 28, 2023.

 

A. Applicability of order: The order governs the practice and procedure in the transferred actions and applies to all cases filed or reassigned as part of MDL No. 3079.

 

tepezza box and vial

Tepezza has generated attention by mass tort attorneys for alleged failure to warn about permanent hearing loss and Tinnitus.

 

B. Initial conference: An initial status hearing and scheduling conference are scheduled for June 28, 2023, addressing various topics, including complaint consolidation, response deadlines, evidence preservation, and appointment of lead counsel and steering committee. The court schedules an initial status hearing and scheduling conference to set the stage for the MDL proceeding and the transferred cases. During this conference, various matters will be addressed, such as whether to consolidate complaints, establishing response deadlines, preservation of evidence, and the potential appointment of lead counsel and steering committees. It serves as a crucial opportunity to discuss important aspects of the litigation and establish a framework for future proceedings.

 

initial tepezza lawsuit conference

To set the setting for the MDL action and the transferred cases, the court conducts an initial status hearing and scheduling conference.

 

C. Lead counsel, Liaison Counsel, and Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee: The appointment process and criteria for selecting lead counsel, steering committee, and liaison counsel for plaintiffs and defendants are discussed. In complex litigations like MDLs, the court may appoint lead counsel and establish a plaintiffs’ steering committee. Lead counsel takes on a leadership role in representing the plaintiffs and coordinating the litigation strategy. The plaintiffs’ steering committee consists of attorneys selected from among the plaintiffs’ lawyers and assists in managing and directing the overall litigation effort. They work together to ensure effective communication, coordination, and efficient progress of the cases. Liaison counsel, on the other hand, acts as a point of contact between the court and the parties involved, facilitating communication and cooperation.

 

D. Consolidation of actions: All transferred actions are consolidated for pretrial purposes, automatically including any future actions without the need for a motion or order. When the court consolidates the actions, it means that all the transferred cases are combined for pretrial purposes. This consolidation streamlines the litigation process by treating the cases as a single unit, avoiding duplication of efforts and allowing for efficient management of common issues. However, it’s important to note that consolidation for pretrial purposes doesn’t automatically mean that the cases will be consolidated for trial or that everyone involved becomes a party to each individual case.

 

E. Filing: Specific instructions are provided for filing documents that apply to all consolidated cases or specific cases within the consolidation. Typically, when something applies to all the consolidated cases, it should be filed under a master case file with a specific caption and case number. If something only applies to specific cases within the consolidation, it should be filed under both the master case number and the individual case number. This ensures proper organization and allows relevant information to be easily accessible to all parties involved.

 

case master file

All pleadings and exhibit cover sheets filed should include the caption and case number of the master file case, followed by the case numbers of all the consolidated cases.

 

F. Service List: Counsel listed on the docket of the lead case is served with the order and requested to forward it to other attorneys involved in transferred cases. The service list consists of the attorneys who have officially appeared in the lead case. They are served with the case management order, and it’s their responsibility to forward a copy of the order to any other attorneys who have filed appearances in cases transferred to the court. This helps ensure that all relevant parties are informed about the court’s directives and are aware of the ongoing proceedings.

 

G. Extension and stay: Extension of time is granted for defendants yet to respond to complaints. Discovery is stayed until the initial conference, and pending motions filed before the case transfer are terminated and must be refiled. This means a party is given additional time to prepare their responses before submitting them to the court. Meanwhile, all discovery (the process of gathering evidence) is put on hold until the initial conference takes place. This stay on discovery prevents parties from initiating new requests for information and promotes fairness by ensuring that all parties have equal access to relevant evidence. Any pending motions filed before the case transfer are terminated and must be refiled in the new court, allowing the new judge to have a comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand.

 

H. Preservation of evidence: All parties are directed to take reasonable steps to preserve relevant documents, data, and tangible things. Specifically, all parties should take reasonable steps to preserve any documents, data, electronically stored information (ESI), and tangible things that may contain relevant information related to the litigation.

 

preserving plaintiff's evidence

The obligation to preserve electronic data and documents requires reasonable and good faith efforts to retain information that may be relevant to pending or anticipated litigation.

 

I. Compliance with Rules: Parties subject to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 7.1 and/or Local Rule 3.2 are directed to make their disclosures in a compliant format. This means parties need to provide required information in the specified format. These rules ensure transparency and efficient case management by outlining disclosure obligations and the format for sharing relevant information. Parties must adhere to these rules to facilitate fair and effective litigation.

 

J. Orders entered by transferor courts: All deadlines for pleading, pretrial disclosures, or discovery imposed by transferor courts are vacated. This means that any previous deadlines for filing complaints, exchanging pretrial information, or conducting discovery are no longer in effect. The court handling the MDL takes control and will establish new deadlines and procedures. The cancellation ensures consistency and allows the new court to implement its own case management approach.

Tepezza Bellwether Trials

As part of the coordinated management of the Tepezza lawsuits, it is expected that Judge Durkin will also eventually establish a “bellwether” program, where a small group of representative cases will be prepared for early trial dates, to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony about hearing damage from Tepezza that will be repeated throughout various cases in the litigation.

 

lawyer in a tepezza bellwether trial

A “bellwether” initiative will also eventually be developed by Judge Durkin, in which a small sample of representative cases will be prepared for early trial dates.

 

Possible Trial Remands if No Settlement Reached

It is possible that no Tepezza settlement agreement or other resolution is reached during the MDL pretrial proceedings. In that case, each claim may be remanded to the U.S. District Court, where it was initially filed for trial.

 

Guidance for Mass Tort Attorneys in Navigating the Litigation

Mass tort attorneys interested in this litigation will be keeping a keen eye on updates to effectively navigate the progress of this complex litigation. Items to consider are the Consolidation Order, the Manual for Complex Litigation, and the results of the initial conference on June 28, 2023.

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