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Accutane: The Mass Tort Opens Next Week, April 2007

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Mark your calendars. On April 16, the first Accutane trial gets under way in Madison County, Illinois, and two weeks later, another begins in Atlantic City, NJ, before state court Judge Carol Higbee, who is overseeing most of the 400 Accutane lawsuits that have been filed.

These first two trials involve men who say the acne medication caused ulcerative colitis and the removal of a colon, respectively. And they’re being represented by a coalition of product-liaibility lawyers with track records in Prozac, Vioxx, Rezulin and PPA. In order to sue a major drug company, one must commit “every waking moment and all of your resources to take them on.” says Mike Hook of Pensacola, Fl., who gathered the group, which includes several Florida firms and Seeger Weiss, the New York firm immersed in Vioxx.

The optimistic Hook, who says he spent most of his career defending doctors, hospitals and insurers, tells The National Law Journal that he expects to file another 300 lawsuits against Hoffmann-La Roche and there are “thousands of more cases out there.”

How many will be won, of course, remains to be seen. Madison County is a notorious “judicial hellhole,” according to the Amerian Tort Reform Association. Yet Merck won a Vioxx trial there last month. In New Jersey, Higbee has regularly irked Merck lawyers with her rulings and sparred openly more than once with one of them. Yet the drugmaker has a mixed record in her court, suggesting Atlantic City juries can be more vexing than a nasty whitehead.

Further reading…
The National Law Journal;
The NJ Accutane Mass Tort page.