A View of the Prempro Litigation from a Different Angle

In the midst of the ongoing, far-reaching Prempro litigation apparently sits a very colorful judge. Businessweek recently published this article, which takes a in-depth look at 70-year-old U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson of Little Rock, Arkansas, who presides over the MDL Prempro litigation.

As we previously reported here, more than 8,000 lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer’s Wyeth unit by former users of the company’s hormone-replacement pills, which are used to treatment menopause symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. Plaintiffs have alleged that the drug causes breast cancer and other injuries, and that the drugmaker failed to properly warn of these risks.

Judge Wilson refused to consolidate the Prempro cases into a class action based on his conclusion that the suits did not have enough in common to justify proceeding as a group. The outcomes of these cases seem to confirm his conclusion. Jury verdicts in these cases have varied widely, with some juries holding that the drug played no part in Plaintiffs’ development of breast cancer, and others rendering verdicts for tens of millions of dollars. As reported by Businessweek, Pfizer’s Wyeth unit has lost seven of the 12 Prempro cases decided by juries since litigation began in 2006, although the drugmaker did succeed in having some of those verdicts thrown out at the post-trial stage or in having awards reduced.

According to the article, Judge Wilson, who presides over his courtroom from a rocking chair, relaxes during his time away from the bench by corralling his prize Tennessee walking mules on his 15-acre farm. A sign on the door of his barn reads: “The more I see of people, the more I prefer mules.” Businessweek reports that at one 2005 hearing, Judge Wilson asked the lawyers what year it was that Hank Williams died. When they couldn’t answer, he launched into a 210-word explanation, on the record, of the circumstances of the singer’s death and his blue 1952 Cadillac.

Judge Wilson, named to the bench by President Clinton in 1993, cemented his spot as Above the Law‘s “Judge of the Day” with a blunt letter he once wrote to a plaintiff’s counsel in 2008. See a copy of his letter here.

As Judge Wilson works his way through some of the thousands of Prempro lawsuits seeking damages from Pfizer, at least he’s sure to keep things interesting.

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