A Kentucky county clerk is denying marriage licenses to gay and heterosexual couples in rebellion against the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down bans on gay marriage across the United States. In fact, one Rowan County Clerk denied marriage licenses to four couples. Now the two same sex couples and two heterosexual couples are suing the clerk who cited religious reasons for her actions. This is just one example of a clerk in the South who cited religious reasons for denying couples marriage licenses. The clerks are claiming that their right to “religious freedom” gives them the right to not give marriage licenses. However, officials are warning the clerks that they could face civil liability. Since the ban on gay marriage was lifted in all states, clerks could be facing criminal charges of official misconduct or misdemeanor that could result in a year in jail. This comes soon after a gay couple in Texas sued a clerk in Hood county after being denied a marriage license. Although the clerk cited religious reasons as well, the couple was granted a marriage license just 12 hours after filing the lawsuit. Actions are being called against clerks by many activists claiming that the denial of marriage licenses is unconstitutional. The debate remains heated over what actions the constitution protects in terms of the clerks.
During the Cannes Film Festival, Voltage Pictures has been heavily promoting a new film starring Academy Award-winning actress Anne Hathaway. The movie, titled Colossal, will revolve around a woman who feels connected to a monstrous giant lizard that’s destroying the City of Tokyo in Japan. If this plot sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it in another blockbuster hit before. Toho, the Japanese company that holds the rights to the Godzilla franchise, certainly thinks so. Last Tuesday, May 19, Toho filed a lawsuit in the California federal court against Voltage Pictures on claims of copyright and trademark infringement. According to Toho, aside from the close similarity the movie has to previous Godzilla movies, Voltage Picture’s blatant use of their character’s name and likeness is also a clear violation of the law. As pointed out by The Hollywood Reporter, the main focus of Toho’s lawsuit is the way that Voltage Pictures “are brazenly producing, advertising, and selling an unauthorized Godzilla film on their own.” Their main issue is the way the production company had been continuously using their copyrighted content and trademarks in order to promote their new movie. Colossal writer-director Nacho Vigalondo, who was previously noted to have said that his movie is “going to be the cheapest Godzilla movie ever”, is a co-defendant in the lawsuit. Toho, represented by lawyers Aaron Moss and Chuck Shephard from Greenberg Glusker, are specifically suing Voltage Pictures for “copyright and trademark infringement, trademark dilution, Lanham Act violations, unfair competition and unjust enrichment.” They are looking to have the production of Colossal halted on top of damages.
Reuters reported that GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to settle a false advertising lawsuit filed by Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuit was in reaction to the ads that Glaxo released to promote their new over-the-counter allergy medication, Flonase. According to their ads, Glaxo claimed that Flonase “outperforms the number 1 allergy pill… and controls six allergy symptoms versus one by the other pill.” Although the pill was never named in the ads, the allergy drugs Benadry and Zyrtec by Johnson & Johnson units McNeil-PPC Inc and McNeil Consumer Healthcare are often common consumer preferences. McNeil emphasized that the claims made by Glaxo are not supported by scientific studies, and such exaggerations could create unfair competition between their respective products. The settlement came to light on Monday, during a hearing in Manhattan where McNeil was supposed to urge the court to disallow Glaxo from making any future claims comparing Flonase with their own allergy medications. Representatives from both camps said that the terms, while confidential, are “mutually acceptable and amicable.” As noted by Reuters, the case is officially referred to as McNeil-PPC Inc and McNeil Consumer Healthcare v. GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare LP, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 15-1866.
Court documents show that the number of lawsuits against Pfizer for Lipitor continues to increase, currently at 1,600. The main allegation of plaintiffs is that they were not adequately warned about the serious side effects of the drug, designed to manage cholesterol levels. Among these side effects is the increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellitus). Multidistrict litigation (MDL) records show that there are 1,604 cases under MDL 2502 for the consideration of Judge Richard M. Gergel. MDL 2502 was certified in February 2014 with 56 lawsuits, and climbed to 1,451 by November. Since then, about 150 cases have been added. Drugs that can lower cholesterol, or statins, in general have been associated with serious side effects such as the development of muscle problems as well as diabetes. Statins are a type of drug that inhibits the activity of the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme, which encourages the production of about 70% of cholesterol in the body. This is widely known in scientific circles, sparking the debate about whether the benefits accruing from statins are outweighed by their associated risks. However, the general public is largely ignorant to these risks. It is the responsibility of drug manufacturers to ensure that patients and doctors are well-informed about the dangers of taking a particular product. The next scheduled status conference for MDL 2502 is on January 22, 2015, where some lawsuits may be dismissed for lack of proper documentation. It is important for plaintiffs to have competent legal representation avoid losing out on a claim because of a technicality. The first bellwether trial is scheduled to be heard in court sometime in October 2015.
Fifty plaintiffs against Xarelto German manufacturer Bayer AG and US distributor Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc (a division of Johnson & Johnson) are poised to have their lawsuits transferred from 15 different federal court districts to just one. The question is, where? Both sides of the soon-to-be multidistrict litigation (MDL) are in agreement that the cases are sufficiently similar to warrant consolidation into an MDL, and presented motions to the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). MDL is the preferred way to handle mass litigation which allows courts to hear the evidence for multiple cases at one time, but still allows individual plaintiffs to control the outcome of their cases. However, the JPML received the same motion for different districts. Xarelto plaintiffs want it in Illinois under Judge David Hendron while the defendants want it in New Jersey, where both companies have their US headquarters, under Judge Freda Wolfson. The arguments of both sides were heard in the District of South Carolina in Charleston on December 4, 2014, and both sides are waiting for the JPML decision before moving on with the next phase of the MDL. It is bound to be a long process, because the plaintiffs are claiming that Xarelto presents a high risk of bleeding to patients. Xarelto (rivaroxaban) is an anticoagulant, and by its very nature indeed poses a risk of bleeding. But this is a risk present in all blood thinner drugs, including warfarin, used as the standard anticoagulant treatment for more than 50 years. The biggest problem of Xarelto is that there is no way to reverse the effects in case of excessive bleeding; warfarin can be almost instantly counteracted with a dose of Vitamin K. If in the end Xarelto is deemed too dangerous to be sold, then all similar anticoagulant drugs will be headed out to court.
When last we heard about Stryker lawsuits, it was to discover that it had been transferred to multidistrict litigation (MDL 2441) in Minnesota at the end of the first quarter of 2014. The medical device company was in hot water for its Stryker Rejuvenate & ABG II Hip implants as well as related products when it was found in 2012 that they had abnormally high failure rates. Many patients that had already received these devices required several repair and replacement surgeries, experienced significant pain, and sustained internal damage. The devices were said to be designed defectively, which qualifies it for product liability lawsuits. It appears, however, that the legal battles are in its last stages. Stryker Co. has decided to offer settlement to plaintiffs, patient families, and insurers in excess of $1.4 billion. It was announced at the Minnesota district court, and could well turn out to be the most expensive settlement program in the history of medical devices as there are no limits set on compensation payouts to thousands of claimants. It seems that the proposed settlement program is fair and efficient, promising a quick turnaround the clients. However, it would be best not to get complacent. The same could have been said about the BP oil spill settlement program, which is still disputing the administration of the fund. Hopefully, this will not happen with Stryker Co.