Zantac Judge Appoints Plaintiff Leaders Even As Defendants Deny Cancer Connection

A federal judge appointed 26 lawyers to spearhead the Zantac litigation in Florida, even as the drug company defendants claimed the antacid does not cause cancer.

District Judge Robin Rosenberg, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, is presiding over 230 cases in MDL 2924, IN RE: Zantac (Ranitidine) Products Liability Litigation.

The suits accuse Sanofi, Pfizer Inc., Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc., and GlaxoSmithKline LLC, as well as generic drug makers, retailers, distributors, and pharmaceutical ingredient makers, of false advertising, and failure to warn.

Zantac/Ranitidine is an antacid and antihistamine that was commonly used to treat and prevent heartburn, as well as stomach ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and conditions that cause too much stomach acid.

The FDA issued a recall on April 1, 2020, requesting that all manufacturers immediately withdraw prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) Zantac/Ranitidine products due to excess levels of NDMA, a probable human carcinogen in the drug that has also been found in rocket fuel.

The FDA noted that its ongoing investigation of Zantac/Ranitidine determined that levels of NDMA increase over time and when the drug is stored at higher-than-normal temperatures. Consumers have been advised to stop taking any Zantac/Ranitidine tablets or liquid medications.

In light of the continuing Coronavirus pandemic, the Court conducted two days of leadership applicant interviews via a Zoom hearing attended by almost 100 attorneys. U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg heard from more than 60 applicants before making her appointments.

Judge Rosenberg created a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee composed of 10 men and 10 women in Pretrial Order # 20. The Court went even further in creating a Leadership Development Committee, a novel, and innovative idea to allow younger attorneys in the mass tort world to gain leadership experience.

“The Court also sought to appoint a diverse leadership team that is representative of the inevitable diversity of the Plaintiffs in this case, and a team that affords younger and slightly less experienced attorneys an opportunity to participate in a leadership role in an MDL. The Court sought to create a team that would collectively bring to bear both wisdom and judgment, and also new approaches and ideas,” Judge Rosenberg wrote.

Plaintiff’s Dream Team

Co-Lead Counsel are:
• Mike McGlamry of Pope McGlamry P.C.
• Bobby Gilbert of Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert.
• Tracy Finken of Anapol Weiss.
• Adam Pulaski of Pulaski Kherkher.

Additionally, 15 members were appointed to the Steering Committee: Rosemarie Riddell Bogdan (Martin, Harding & Mazzotti), Mark J. Dearman (Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP), Elizabeth A. Fegan (Fegan Scott LLC), Marlene J. Goldenberg (Goldenberglaw, PLLC), Roopal P. Luhana (Chaffin Luhana LLP), Ricardo M. Martinez-Cid (Podhurst Orseck, P.A.), Lauren S. Miller (Cory Watson, P.C.), Melanie H. Muhlstock (Parker Waichman LLP), Daniel A. Nigh (Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A.), Carmen S. Scott (Motley Rice, LLC), Mikal C. Watts (Watts Guerra LLP), Sarah N. Westcot (Bursor & Fisher, P.A.), Conlee S. Whiteley (Kanner & Whiteley, L.L.C.), R. Brent Wisner (Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, P.C.), and Frank Woodson (Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.).

Judge Rosenberg made the following appointments to the Leadership Development Committee: Paige Boldt (Watts Guerra LLP), Je Yon Jung (May Lightfoot, PLLC), Adam William Krause (Krause and Kinsman, LLC), Nicola Larmond-Harvey (Saunders & Walker, P.A.), and Bradford B. Lear (Lear Werts LLP).

Other appointments included:

• Ashley Keller (Keller Lenkner) as chairman, and Fred Longer (Levin, Sedran & Berman) as co-chairman, of the Law & Briefing Committee,        and Daniel Nigh (Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor) as chairman of the Science & Experts Committee.
• Mikal Watts (Watts Guerra) and Brent Wisner (Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman), were appointed as co-chairs of the Bellwether & Trial         Team.

Whining from the Corporate Defendants

In a Zoom meeting five days later, a rogue’s gallery of drug makers who are defendants in the Zantac litigation said the lawsuits are “based on a series of mights and maybes,” claiming there is no causal link between the drug and cancer.

“The law is supposed to lag science,” said Anand Agneshwar, who represents Sanofi SA and laid out the case for the defendants. “It’s not supposed to lead it.”

Paige Sharpe, who also represents Sanofi, said, “Even if they can show that Zantac can cause one type of cancer, plaintiffs will have to show it caused their individual cancer. That’s a very high hurdle.”

The defense team pointed to statements made by both the FDA and the European Medicines Agency when they pulled the drug from shelves saying that there was no proven link between the drug and cancer.

Sanofi is represented by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, DLA Piper, Jones Foster Johnston & Stubbs, and Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson PA.

GlaxoSmithKline is represented by Dechert LLP, Nelson Mullins Broad and Cassel, and Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP.

Pfizer is represented by Williams & Connolly LLP and Walsh Pizzi O’Reilly Falanga LLP.

Boehringer is represented by King & Spalding LLP, Carlton Fields, Wicker Smith O’Hara McCoy & Ford, Shipman & Goodwin LLP, and Covington & Burling LLP.

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