On December 6, 2007, Judge David Katz, the federal judge who oversees the Ortho Evra multi-district litigation proceedings in Cleveland issued a scheduling order for the first trials to be conducted in the federal system. Judge Katz oversees more than 1,400 lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson (http://www.jnj.com/home.htm) and its subsidiaries relating to the controversial Ortho Evra birth control patch. The patch was marketed as an alternative to modern low-dose oral contraceptives, but it is now known that the patches deliver as much as 60 times higher doses of hormones than other alternatives without providing any greater efficacy. Many years ago, birth control pills contained higher doses of hormones, but the dosages have been reduced over the years after high-dose medications were associated with an unacceptable increase in adverse events, including strokes and blood clots. Ortho Evra has also been associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and the formation of blood clots in the lungs and legs.
Seven cases involving plaintiffs from Ohio have been selected for the initial (or bellwether) trial process in the federal MDL proceedings. Five of the cases involving plaintiffs who survived their injuries, including the following plaintiffs: a twenty-four year old woman who suffered blood clots in her lungs and brain in July of 2005 after using Ortho Evra for two weeks; a thirty-two year old woman who developed deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism in April of 2004; a forty-one year old woman who developed a blood clot in her leg and multiple blood clots in her lungs in July of 2005; a twenty-two year old woman who suffered a heart attack after using the Ortho Evra patch for two months; and a twenty-five year old woman from developed a pulmonary embolism after use of the patch for two months in April of 2003. This bellwether trial group also includes a personal injury claim brought by the parents of a 14 year-old girl who used the patch to regulate her menstrual cycle and suffered a deep vein thrombosis in July of 2005. The remaining case is a wrongful death claim filed by the surviving husband and infant son of a university volleyball coach who died of cardiac arrest at the age of twenty-five after using the patch for one month.
The first trial will begin on June 24, 2008, and a second trial will occur on July 22, 2008. The Court has not yet selected the cases to be included in these first trials, and indicated that the cases that are not selected initially will be tried as soon as the Court’s calendar permits. The parties have been ordered to complete fact discovery by January 31, 2008 and expert witness discovery by March 28, 2008. A Daubert hearing on scientific issues has been scheduled for April 15, 2008.