Week Adjourned: 1.21.11

Top Lawsuits

Dilantin on the Defense. Pfizer, Parke Davis and Warner Lambert are facing a drug-related class action—this time over the alleged development of what can be a fatal skin disease—Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) or Toxic Epidural Necrolysis (TEN)—associated with the use of drugs that contain Dilantin.  

The defendants make drugs used to treat epilepsy that contain Dilantin. The plaintiffs claim that it caused them or their deceased relatives to develop SJS/TENS.

Just in case you’re wondering what SJS/TENS is—it is characterized by the discoloration or exfoliation of skin, the shedding of hair and nails, hives or burns to the body, loss of eyesight and/or damage to internal organs, according to the suit. And it turns out that certain racial groups can be more susceptible to SJS/TENs that others.

The suit claims that despite mounting evidence of Dilantin’s risks, especially to different populations, the defendants aggressively marketed their products and failed to report associated severe reactions. The plaintiffs allege they were unaware of how dangerous their prescriptions containing Dilantin could be. One plaintiff was originally prescribed a medication containing Dilantin over 10 years ago, but claims that the statute of limitations has not expired because he was not aware of the source of his injuries until within the last two years.

The list of allegations reads like a rap sheet—strict products liability, negligence, failure to warn, negligence in bringing Dilantin to market, negligent misrepresentation, misrepresentation by omission, negligence per se, fraud and misrepresentation, fraud by concealment, violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and wrongful death.

Top Settlements

Is the tide finally turning? With BP and the Gulf Oil Spill at front of mind—this possible settlement is particularly interesting. Preliminary approval of a settlement has been reached in the first environmental class action to be certified in Massachusetts. The suit was brought against Bouchard Transportation Company by more than 1,000 homeowners in Mattapoisett whose properties were affected when Bouchard barge B-120 spilled 98,000 gallons of oil into Buzzards Bay, contaminating roughly 90 miles of shoreline on April 27, 2003.

The terms of the agreement, reached January 7, state that Bouchard Transportation will provide up to $12.375 million to settle the class claims. The funds will be made available to persons who owned the affected Mattapoisett homes April 27, 2003.

Final settlement approval is scheduled for April 25th, 2011. If it goes through, eligible homeowners could receive between $1,500 and $30,000, depending on how severely their property was affected, and whether or not their property included a private or shared beach. Of course there’s paperwork involved—eligible homeowners will have to submit a claim form to receive payment. But hey—it’s a start.

PNC Bank getting its comeuppance?—over overdoing overdraft charges—and who is not acquainted with those? A preliminary $12 million settlement has received court approval in the class action facing PNC Bank over allegations of deceptive business practices (has there been any other kind in the past 36 months?) related to fees charged to National City Bank customers. The suit was filed in February 2010, after PNC and National City Bank merged in 2009.

The plaintiffs claim that the bank misled customers about their account balance, concealed its overdraft policies and “reorder[ed] electronic debit transactions from the highest dollar amount to lowest dollar amount so as to deplete the customer’s available funds as quickly as possible while maximizing the number of overdraft fees collected,” the latest order in the case states. You know, you could practically recite these allegations in your sleep they’re so common.

Under the terms of the settlement, National City customers who held an account during the class period and “incurred at least one overdraft fee associated with at least one National City debit card transaction that was not previously reversed, refunded or returned” to them by the bank would be eligible for the class, U.S. District Judge John Bates wrote.

Under the $12 million settlement, class members in Washington would receive $36 for each eligible overdraft charge incurred during any two calendar months, not necessarily consecutive, between July 1, 2004, and August 15, 2010. Pardon me if I don’t applaud. 

Ok—That’s it for this week. See you at the Bar…

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