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More than 200 Zofran birth defect lawsuits are now consolidated in the US District Court for Massachusetts, and attorneys on both of sides of the dispute are eager to begin building their case. But the Court itself is still managing additional transfers, in which Zofran lawsuits, filed in district courts across the country, are sent to Boston and consolidated along with the others.

Many plaintiffs, families who believe Zofran caused their child’s birth defects, welcome a transfer, since it will likely speed the course of litigation toward a resolution. GlaxoSmithKline, for that matter, requested consolidation in the first place. But several transfer orders have been disputed. Usually, transfers become contentious when a family has chosen to sue both GlaxoSmithKline and someone else, like their own doctor or a hospital.

Family Loses Bid To Keep Zofran Lawsuit In Oregon

One such dispute was resolved by court order on February 4, 2016. The case in question was initially filed in an Oregon state court on August 28, 2015, under the case number 15CV23066. In their initial complaint, a family claims that GlaxoSmithKline’s potent nausea drug caused their daughter M.B.’s heart to develop abnormally. Among other alleged defects, the left side of M.B.’s heart is severely underdeveloped.

Like every Zofran lawsuit, the family claims that the drug causes birth defects, and that GlaxoSmithKline has been concealing evidence of the link for decades. But alongside the international pharmaceutical conglomerate, Plaintiffs are also suing Providence Health, the hospital where the mother claims she was administered the drug.

Family Sues Hospital For Selling “Defective” Drug

Under Oregon state law, Plaintiffs claim, Providence Health can be held accountable for “selling a defective product.” Zofran is defective, in the parents’ minds, and thus the hospital should be held liable for any damages caused by the drug. As for the lawsuit? It should stay in Oregon, Plaintiffs argued, since Providence Health is a company incorporated in Oregon and their claim against the company is based on state law.

Usually, if a plaintiff from Oregon filed suit against a single defendant in Delaware (where GlaxoSmithKline is incorporated), that case would come under the jurisdiction of America’s federal court system. But this can get muddy, especially when plaintiffs choose to sue a business incorporated in their own state, alongside the defendant incorporated elsewhere. Lawsuits like that can stay in a state court, but only if plaintiffs are able to convince the court that there’s a good reason to sue both defendants in the same legal action.

Skirmish Over Jurisdiction Ensues

Hoping to have the case ultimately transferred to Boston, GlaxoSmithKline moved to have the lawsuit transferred from state court to a federal district court in Oregon. The family doesn’t have a good reason to sue Providence Health, the company claimed, they’re just doing it to keep this case in Oregon. Plaintiffs put forward a similar argument: GlaxoSmithKline just wants this case removed to federal court because they “do[…] not like state court.”

In an interesting development, Providence Health, wary of becoming embroiled in litigation on the East Coast, agreed with the family suing it. Motions and responses flew back and forth, but on February 4, the Honorable F. Dennis Saylor IV put the debate to rest.

Saylor, the federal judge appointed to preside over the developing Zofran MDL, ordered the case’s transfer to Massachusetts. All these squabbles over jurisdiction, Saylor wrote in his final Transfer Order, don’t really matter; the Boston court is perfectly capable of “apply[ing] the laws of one or more jurisdictions.”

The Order goes on to present Judge Saylor’s clearest statement on the purpose of Multi-District Litigation, which is, in his words, to speed the “resolution of [a] litigation taken as a whole.” Even transfers that may “inconvenience” specific parties, Saylor says, are warranted if the convenience of the entire group will be improved by the transfer. It is best, in short, to address the common questions of fact in one go, rather than having several different courts consider the same evidence and come to different conclusions.

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