U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to hear Oral Arguments regarding Xarelto

On July 25, 2014, the McGowen family filed a claim in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont against Xarelto drug manufacturer, Bayer Healthcare and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary for the wrongful death of Thomas C. Dunkley. Mr. Dunkley was diagnosed as suffering from atrial fibrillation, a heart-related disease that is characterized by an irregular and often rapid heart rate that usually causes reduced blood flow to the body. For his condition, Dunkley was prescribed Xarelto (rivaroxaban) to treat atrial fibrillation to reduce his risk of sustaining an embolic stroke. Dunkley passed away less than two weeks after he began using Xarelto.

According to the court filings, Dunkley began taking Xarelto on July 17, 2012. Seven days later, he experienced a brain hemorrhage and suffered a life-threatening, irreversible bleed.

Dunkely’s condition arose after taking Xarelto for only nine days. The family alleges that Mr. McGowen experienced pain and suffering due to the adverse effects from taking Xarelto. It is further alleged that the drug manufacturers of Xarelto failed to adequately warn the consumer of that one of Xarelto’s deadly side effects is uncontrolled bleeding. It is further alleged that the manufacturer concealed the safety risks from not only Mr. Dunkley, but also the FDA, the general public and the medical community. Finally, it is alleged that the manufacturer negligently and improperly failed to test Xarelto on humans in clinical trials before presenting it in the market for public use.

This is not the only claim regarding the adverse effects of Xarelto. In fact, there are now 21 product liability lawsuits in 10 federal district courts involving either injuries or deaths related associate with uncontrolled bleeding from the use of Xarelto. As a result, a group of plaintiffs have filed claims to present before one judge for pre-trial proceedings in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL).

An MDL is different than a class action in that each case in an MDL is separately prosecuted as an individual lawsuit. Cases in an MDL are coordinated together, usually for discovery purposes, but the trials are usually conducted on an individual basis. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) is expected to hear oral arguments by January 2015. The Dunkley case and the other claims that presently exist against Xarelto are in the early stages of litigation, and experts suggest that there will continue to be more claims that arise in the coming months.

Alexandra Bhatti, Intern Jacoby & Meyers.