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Column: Ozempic litigation’s leadership spat spotlights lawyers’ self-selection

A squabble playing out in consolidated litigation against Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro drugmakers highlights important questions about how courts should decide who will lead these sweeping cases.

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A dispute that is brewing in a multi-party lawsuit between Ozempic Wegovy as well as Mounjaro drugmakers raises important concerns about how courts will determine who will be the judge in these massive lawsuits.

Should judges let lawyers representing plaintiffs to choose their own leader structure? Or should courts up the possibility to all potential candidates and decide on their own which one is the best?

U.S. District Judge Gene Pratter of Philadelphia was appointed in February to handle all federal court lawsuits that accuse drug makers Novo Nordisk (NOVOb.CO), opens new tab, and manufacturer of Mounjaro Eli Lilly (LLY.N), opens a new tab accusing them of not educating patients of some of the serious side effects associated with the drugs that are blockbusters.

Novo Nordisk said in an email it believes the allegations are not valid and that it will “vigorously defend” against them. Eli Lilly did not respond to a request. Both companies say that their medicines are safe, and the drug’s side effects are disclosed in the information on labeling.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs still believe the consolidation of litigation could comprise as much as 220,000 cases. They’ve been negotiating between themselves for months over an organizational structure for leadership that would allow the litigation to go ahead with efficiency.

There were two camps, one headed by Motley Rice and Wagstaff & Cartmell, while the other was led with Seeger Weiss, and Morgan & Morgan – initially had differing opinions about how the cases should be combined. But when the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred all the lawsuits to the Pratter courtroom, the four firms came together and helped other plaintiffs join them to allow them to take the direction.

At the initial hearing opens new tabs before Pratter in the month of March lawyers from all four firms said that the early grouping has allowed plaintiffs to progress on important preliminary questions, including how to instruct the court on the research behind the drugs and the best way they can draft protection orders that make sure that discovery remains secret.

The majority of other plaintiffs’ firms involved in the matter, Seeger Weiss partner Parvin Aminolroaya informed Pratter during the hearing, have already given the four firms permission to represent them. A lawyer who works together with the group told Pratter that a large majority of the plaintiffs’ companies had negotiated one structure of leadership which included four firms as co-leads along with several others who are on the executive and steering committees.That self-selection according to the lawyer “will allow plaintiffs’ firms to devote their time, energy and effort to litigating these claims instead of fighting amongst themselves.”

Pratter stated that it was “a delight to hear” that the plaintiffs’ firms were forming themselves, saying that she didn’t want to witness attorneys “squabbling with each other.”

The judge also stated that she wanted to make sure that there were no lawyers representing plaintiffs who believed they were “left out in the cold” or “muzzled” by the majority group. She encouraged anyone who wanted an appointment as a leader to submit an appeal to be considered.

Following the court hearings, the team comprised of Seeger Weiss Motley Rice, Morgan & Morgan, and Wagstaff made a formal motion that opens a new tab to be designated lead counsel along with the addition of more than 12 additional firms set to be in leadership committees. Four firms informed Pratter that following extensive discussions and negotiations with other firms involved in the lawsuit the plaintiffs’ lawyers have avoided competition and gathered “to form a strong and cohesive group that will work cooperatively and efficiently to best represent the interests of the injured plaintiffs.”

However, last week Sara Foster and Jeffrey Haberman of the Schlesinger Law Offices asked, opens a new tab Pratter to denounce the consensus slate and to throw open the contest for leadership.

It should not be the responsibility of the self-appointed lead counsel to determine who is qualified to lead an investigation, lawyers claimed. Transparency and openness are, according to them, a prerequisite that all candidates present presentations on the docket of public hearings.

Foster who, in a separate request to open a another tab Pratter to nominate her to a leadership group She said she tried to arrange an appointment for the lead counsel, but she did not be offered the position she believes she’s competent for.

In addition to the particulars of Foster’s dispute with lead counsel and the proposed leads, the Schlesinger filing makes the provocative assertion that the fair procedure requires a judge to look over the written submissions of candidates for leadership instead of relying on lead counsel’s suggestions to make the leadership decisions. This is the only way, the brief stated to ensure that all plaintiffs’ companies – and their clients that only the top lawyers were chosen.

Seeger Weiss Motley Rice, Wagstaff as well as Morgan & Morgan filed their response, which opens a the new tab on Wednesday contending that in accordance with the rules that are in the Manual for Complex Litigation in federal court as well as the third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2002 report on the appointment of counsel for class actions, it’s perfectly acceptable that judges rely on plaintiffs’ counsel to work together on a leadership structure that they would like to create. The courts regularly accept these slates and have cited various recent MDLs.

This is no surprise, as the leads proposed said that by permitting plaintiffs’ lawyers to agree on who is in charge, judges in these complicated cases are able to avoid time-consuming disputes that waste time and resources that could be better spent on helping the plaintiffs who are allegedly injured.

In this case, the proposed lead counsel claimed that each person who was a candidate for leadership had the opportunity to pitch their case. One company that made a stand following the hearing in March got a seat on the steering committee that was proposed the firm said.

Foster who works for The Schlesinger firm was offered a spot on a committee to develop young lawyers, as per the brief response, however she she wasn’t pleased with the selection. In light of the discussion the lead counsel’s proposal stated, Foster and her firm should be removed from the consensus list.

Foster has not responded to my request for a comments on the brief, nor did he respond to the debate about the best methods for MDL Leadership appointments.

The proposed lead counsel sent me an official statement that reads: “We followed a process put in place by Judge Pratter at the initial case management conference, which has delivered outstanding and successful MDL leadership committees recently and over the years,” they declared. “The consensus leadership group included essentially everyone that has been working on the case over the last several months.”

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