SANTA ANA, Calif. (Legal Newsline) – U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney has granted plaintiffs' motion to remand their claims against a global pharmaceutical company to a state court after the defendant had removed it to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act.

The order issued May 23 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California explains that the goal of consolidating mass actions in federal court under CAFA is to preserve judicial resources and to reduce the odds of creating inconsistencies from similar lawsuits with judicially different rulings. 

The dispute began on Aug. 16, 2013, when three plaintiffs filed a petition with the California Judicial Council to have their individual cases coordinated into a Joint Council Coordinated Proceeding (JJCP). The complaint alleges that the pharmaceutical product Lipitor, made by Pfizer and distributed by McKesson Corp., gave the defendants Type 2 diabetes. On Sept. 25, 2013, the plaintiffs filed an amended petition adding 21 plaintiffs more to the complaint.

The next phase of the dispute began on Dec. 6, 2013, when the CJC granted the request for coordination and created a Joint Council Coordinated Proceeding (JCCP) with the special title of "Lipitor Cases." However, as of May 23, only 65 plaintiffs have joined the mass class action.

By Feb. 24, 2014, the plaintiffs made the case that at one point in time, there were at least 54 cases concerning similar effects of Lipitor filed in California that encompassed 1,855 plaintiffs. The plaintiffs went on to explain that they were in contact with other lawyers who were poised to also join the class action. 

However, by June 2014 the majority of these plaintiffs had not consented to join the class action and therefore the case had not reached the necessary number of plaintiffs to be eligible for federal court, because, as the court noted, the requirements for CAFA are very narrow. 

Carney argued that the court could not assume the that the remaining necessary number of plaintiffs would join the class action to push the complaint over the minimum number of participants needed for the case to qualify for CAFA Court.

"The plaintiffs who are not yet part of the JCCP could have many legitimate reasons for not wanting a joint federal trial," according to the court order. "For example, some plaintiffs might seek to distance themselves from those with seemingly weaker claims or from those who will be preoccupied with defenses unique to them."

Because the necessary number of plaintiffs were not willing to join the dispute, Carney issued an order to move the lawsuit back to state court. Meanwhile, the remaining lawsuits have been divided among four different federal courts in the state of California.

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