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3 posts from June 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lawsuits Help Drive a Drug from the Marketplace

Roche, Inc. today announced that after 27 years it will immediately discontinue the manufacture and distribution of Accutane, its prescription drug treatment for severe acne that has been used by more than 13 million patients worldwide.  As one reason for discontinuing the drug, Roche explains that generic versions of isotretinoin (Accutane) have reduced its market share to less than 5 percent. 

But then there's this:

In addition, Roche has been faced with high costs from personal-injury lawsuits that the company continues to defend vigorously.

Those who follow these issues closely will know that Roche has been engaged in many heated lawsuits in our very own Atlantic County, NJ over Accutane.  Those who watch extremely closely will know that Roche has appealed some cases after losing large verdicts in cases where the rulings of Judge Carol Higbee have been at issue. 

Accutane has been approved by the FDA for over a generation for the treatment of acne and has been taken by tens of millions of people.  But plaintiffs lawyers from around the country have come to NJ to sue the company, alleging that the drug may cause Iritable Bowell Syndrome (IBS) in a small number of those who take the drug.  Roche denies this, but is now pulling the drug from the market in part because of the cost of defending these suits.

If you are reading this and currently taking Accutane, trial lawyers owe you an apology.  You just lost your drug. 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Trial Lawyers' Greed Wins the Day

Once again the trial lawyers' greed has halted their legislative ambition.  Today in the New Jersey Senate Commerce Committee the chairwoman, Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex), held a bill that would allow bad faith suits against automobile insurers because the plaintiffs' bar and the State Bar Association would not accept a version that did not include punitive damages (in this case, up to three times the amount of the insured's coverage).

The bill, S-132, would have established a private right of action for insured automobile policy holders who allege unfair claims settlement practices against their insurance carrier arising from a claim under their uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) had sought amendments to require "clear and convincing evidence of malice or wanton disregard" for the insured's rights to prove bad faith and he had sought to limit attorney's fees only when the plaintiff was successful in proving bad faith.  In addition, he sought to strike punitive damages.  Senator Nicholas Scutari, the bill's sponsor, worked hard with Cardinale to make a bill that could pass the committee.

The State Bar Association and the NJ Association for Justice would not agree to eliminating punitive damages and withdrew support for the bill.

In 2008 the plaintiffs' bar would not accept any limit on emotional damages in wrongful death suits and, when their bill allowing unlimited emotional damages passed the legislature, Governor Corzine pocket vetoed the bill.  Today, they could have had a bad faith bill without punitive damages, and they instead chose nothing.

But it's not about the money, right?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Elected Judges and Recusal

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Caperton v. Massey Coal Co. that due process can require a state judge to recuse himself when a party in a case before him or her has had a "significant or disproportionate" influence on placing the judge on the court through an outsized campaign donation.  In the case in questions, the CEO of Massey had spent about $3 million to elect a justice to the West Virginia Supreme Court.  That justice provided the tie-breaking vote in ruling for Massey and against Caperton. 

The web is full of articles discussing the difficulties surrounding this ruling.  But one question is worth asking: what if it had been the plaintiffs and not the defendant, who had been victorious?  Would we have seen the same result? 

James Copeland of the Manhattan Institute notes at Point of Law.com that a pro-plaintiff organization, Consumers for Civil Justice, had spent about $2 million in the same race.

You can read the Law.com article about the decision here.

The Wall Street Journal weighs in with an editorial here.