As fascinating as they are, even imPaneled has to admit that most Panel proceedings proceed in a similar fashion, and that there is minimal variety in either the substance or the style of the written submissions. MDL 2342–In re: Zoloft (Sertraline Hydrochloride) Products Liability Litigation–is decidedly an exception to the rule. Defendant Pfizer started the ball rolling blandly enough, seeking the consolidation of 59 pending cases on its home turf in New York City (albeit with three alternative districts, including two in the anti-NYC, Mississippi). Several plaintiffs followed with the usual requests for alternative forums (E.D. Pa., S.D. Ill., E.D. La.), but were generally–and strangely–silent as to the merits of consolidation generally.
That silence was shattered–nay, disintegrated–by a series of last-minute filings by plaintiffs who excoriated Pfizer for procedural gamesmanship above and beyond the usual Panel shenanigans. Those plaintiffs claim that Pfizer “wrongfully removed” over 40 of the 59 cases to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania the day it filed its Panel motion, and demanded that those cases be excluded from the proceeding. They further accused Pfizer of seeking to “evade unfavorable precedent” by requesting consolidation anywhere but that district, as that district’s judges have twice remanded cases naming a Pennsylvania-based defendant common to the Pennsylvania cases. Most unusually, the plaintiffs made those charges in four substantially identical briefs filed over the course of several days, rather than in a single brief–just to make sure the Panel gets the point.
All of this is apparently another chapter in a long-running battle between the plaintiffs’ bar and the defense bar over the latter’s claim that the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court has become a plaintiff-friendly magnet for claims bearing no relation to the city. imPaneled takes no side in the battle, but appreciates any opportunity to see “friendly” and “Philadelphia” in the same sentence.