(June 22, 2018) Law firms representing people who have filed shingles vaccine cases have requested they be consolidated in New Jersey. Law360 reported last month that the firms represent hundreds of people who allegedly suffered serious injuries after using Merck & Co. Inc.’s shingles vaccine. A bar notice said the attorneys have asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to give the Zostovax cases a multicounty litigation designation (MLC).
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Plaintiffs in some 37 filed cases filed in one petition hail from all across the country. Their lawsuits all claim Merck failed to warn them that its shingles vaccine could cause maladies such as brain swelling, eye injuries, and other physical disorders.
One attorney representing 285 plaintiffs said that the people filing complaints claim similar injuries, so coordinating discovery for the suits “would be advantageous (and) promote convenience and fairness to all parties to these cases.”
Middlesex County is the best place for the cases, said the plaintiffs’ firms. According to Bern & Partners, Bergen and Atlantic counties are already handling 13 other mass torts between them, and two out of the seven mass torts now running in Middlesex are nearly finished; so Middlesex would be a good destination for the shingles lawsuit cases.
Bern & Partners argued that despite nearly identical issues of fact and law presented to the various judges now assigned to the cases, the rulings have not all been consistent. The Bern firm wants the Zostovax cases to go before Superior Court Judge James Hyland, who is overseeing mass torts for Middlesex County.
Bern & Partners attorney Thomas Joyce, who represents 569 plaintiffs, said, “We anticipate and presume that inconsistent rulings on substantively identical issues of law and/or fact will continue to occur. (Thus), MCL designation will be beneficial to preserve consistency throughout these similar cases, and will be fair and convenient for all parties and the court.”
The judiciary welcomed comments and objections to the applications through June 8, 2018.
Shingles Vaccine Lawsuits
Shingles vaccine lawsuits have been filed over Merck’s Zostavax vaccine. Zostavax causes problems, according to plaintiffs, because it contains a live virus that can cause nerve-damaging inflammation throughout the body. Plaintiffs represented by Sadaka Associates claim that inflammation caused by Zostavax can lead to facial paralysis, encephalitis, meningitis and loss of dexterity.
Bern & Partners allege additional Zostavax shingles-related injuries that include post-herpetic neuralgia, retinol necrosis, keratitis (eye/vision injury) and acute myelitis. Bern & Partners’ plaintiffs allege that the makers, marketers, distributors and sellers of Zostavax knew or should have known about its “dangerous propensity,” yet concealed the information to boost Merck’s shingles vaccine sales.
Judge Hyland Chosen
Merck also wants the cases to be heard by Judge Hyland, whom Merck recognizes as familiar with the company, according to a September 2017 letter from the drug and vaccine giant’s legal counsel, Fox Rothschild LLP. That letter was included in the bar notice.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Mark Sadaka told Law360 that he was hopeful the New Jersey consolidation would work hand-in-hand with the federal MDL.
The Zostavax shingles vaccine cases are in the Superior Court of New Jersey.