Invokana, a type 2 diabetes medication released in the U.S. in 2013, has been associated with several potentially-deadly side effects, including an increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, a form of blood poisoning, and toe and foot amputations.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Invokana’s manufacturer, introduced its new drug as a “much-needed” innovation in medicine, and the drug quickly gained prominence in the market. But now, a growing number of patients who say that Invokana caused them to develop serious health problems are filing product liability lawsuits.

Is Invokana Litigation Headed For Class Action?

With an estimated 4 million Invokana prescriptions written every year, many patients may have been exposed to the potential risks. This is why the legal community expects that many Invokana cases will arise in the near future.

Large numbers of similar cases can often be processed faster and more efficiently if handled with a group litigation procedure such as class action. This form of claim consolidation was started for Invokana litigation in Canada. In September 2015, an Ontario resident suffering from kidney failure filed an Invokana class action, CBC News reports.

But the laws governing class action differ considerably between the Canadian and U.S. court systems, and class action may not prove the most advantageous option for American Invokana patients seeking fair compensation for their injuries.

What Is Class Action?

In class action, one case, filed by one or a few “lead” plaintiff(s), is meant to represent a host of similar claims.  Any potential claimants who meet qualifications established in the lawsuit—for example, by having suffered a particular side effect or used a drug during a certain time period—can become “class members.”

Commonly, eligible claimants only need to submit a simple form to become part of a class action, or they may even be included as class members automatically unless they elect to opt out.

Rewards Are Often Scarce

Consolidating claims with class action can help empower consumers in fighting back against powerful companies like big-name drugmakers. This is because a class action suit is bolstered by a multitude of claimants, though the vast majority of these people are not directly involved in the legal process. Only the lead plaintiff(s) actually file the lawsuit and appear in court if the case goes to trial.

However, attaching your claim to a class action holds 3 significant drawbacks:

  1. Little Or No Control Over Case Outcome. Class members other than the lead plaintiff(s) generally have no say in how the case proceeds and are not allowed to participate in court or contribute to settlement negotiations. Thus, in joining a class action, you put the fate of your claim solely in the hands of the lead plaintiff, whom you may never even get the chance to meet with or speak to.
  2. Insufficient Compensation. Any restitution awarded in a class action is divided up among the class members by court decision. However, the largest share typically goes to the lead plaintiff(s), and many class members end up receiving only a small amount or nothing at all.
  3. Loss Of Your Right To File. Joining a class action usually requires you to sign over your right to file an individual lawsuit regarding your claim. This is a disadvantage because if you end up dissatisfied with the outcome of the class action and want to try for a better resolution by filing your own lawsuit afterwards, you’d be legally barred from doing so.

Plaintiffs who file individual lawsuits can still band together with other claimants for “strength in numbers,” while also retaining all their rights, by relying on consolidation through Multi-District Litigation (MDL).

How Does Multi-District Litigation Work?

In MDL, a number of similar individual lawsuits filed in different districts throughout the country are handled together in a single district court for pre-trial procedures. Pre-trial includes crucial proceedings such as “discovery,” in which plaintiffs and defendants formally obtain information from one another that they may later use in court.

This process has already begun. On December 7, 2016, a panel of federal judges created MDL 2750, In Re: Invokana (Canagliflozin) Products Liability Litigation, selecting the US District Court of New Jersey as the most appropriate jurisdiction to host a new Multi-District Litigation surrounding the alleged side effects of Invokana. Soon after, lawsuits initially filed in federal courts across the country were being transferred to New Jersey, where District Judge Brian Martinotti has been slated to preside over the litigation. Today, over 900 such lawsuits are consolidated in New Jersey. The lengthy process of discovery is now underway.

Possible Benefits Of MDL For Invokana Plaintiffs

Adding the weight of other claims to help support your own is not the only potential upside of centralizing with MDL:

  • Having one judge oversee pre-trial for multiple cases can save a considerable amount of time—for example, by avoiding redundancies such as having an expert witness’s testimony take place more than once. It can also help ensure that pre-trial rulings are fair and consistent over the various cases. Such considerations are key in “dangerous drug” lawsuits, in which the issues of interest tend to require the judge to study a great deal of complex background information.
  • Because the cases in an MDL remain separate lawsuits, the individual plaintiffs retain full control over their case’s direction, including the ability to decide whether to accept a settlement offer or to proceed to trial.
  • No Shared Compensation. As cases are only consolidated for pre-trial in MDL, court awards or settlements are not divided up—they’re given out individually, so each plaintiff receives the full award amount. This is a crucial point, as many Invokana plaintiffs, especially those who were severely injured from side effects and accumulated many medical expenses, will likely seek significant compensation.
  • May Encourage Settlements. Typically, in MDL, a handful of cases are selected to go to trial first, and the proceedings and outcomes of these “bellwether” trials are closely observed by the defendant(s) to gauge the court’s reaction—to see if fighting in court is worthwhile for them. If early trials are judged in favor of the plaintiffs, then defendants commonly choose to offer settlements for the rest of the cases in the MDL rather than have them go to trial, to save time and to limit negative press.

After pre-trial is over, the constituent cases are either “remanded” (sent back to the district court in which they were originally filed) to proceed to trial, enter individual settlement negotiations with the defendant or are settled globally through an agreement that involves all of the cases.

For Definitive Answers, Seek A Case Evaluation

On this page, we covered major forms of group litigation and outlined their benefits and drawbacks for potential Invokana plaintiffs.

However, keep in mind that every case is unique. If you think you may have a valid Invokana claim and need specific advice or assistance for initiating a lawsuit, it’s best to get a personalized case evaluation.

Banville Law is now offering free comprehensive case evaluations to patients harmed by Invokana or related drugs. All you need to do is contact the firm online or by phone and within 24 hours you will speak with an experienced attorney who can answer all of your questions and concerns.