Managing the potentially vast scope of discovery requests in life sciences industry litigation can be daunting. The discovery requests in such litigation may be quite broad, following the product through its entire life cycle, and under the new(ish) Federal Rules can be even broader than in the past. They may now involve requests for samples, requests for access to databases, requests for technical support and IT depositions.

Companies in the life sciences area know well that multiple kinds of litigation now regularly arise from same product issue or nucleus of facts, including
– product liability
– medical monitoring
– securities
– consumer fraud class action
– DOJ and government investigations

The vast array of litigation raises the potential for inconsistent positions in the different parts of the litigation concerning same subject. In addition, defendants must be on guard against spoliation attacks and the plaintiffs’ new favorite, the “Gotcha” Game, in which plaintiffs seek discovery not for information, but to find and challenge wherever defendant drew the line in document or data preservation. All in all, the management and conduct of e-discovery has become an area of true specialization.

Defendants may have wondered whether discovery is a two-way street under the new rules. Plaintiffs don’t have as much data, perhaps, and courts have been reluctant to hold individual plaintiffs to the same standards as corporate defendants. In a recent decision in the Zyprexa litigation, a governmental plaintiff may have been, however.

The magistrate judge overseeing discovery in the MDL has weighed in on the state of New Mexico’s apparent failure to properly respond to discovery requests in a lawsuit it filed against Eli Lilly & Co. over Zyprexa. Madrid v. Eli Lilly & Co., No. 07-cv-1749 (MDL-1596 E.D.N.Y.).

As is typical in this branch of the litigation, the state alleges that it would not have spent Medicaid funds on Zyprexa if it had known more about the supposed risks of the drug. The lawsuit was removed to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico in 2006 after it was originally filed in state court. It was transferred for pretrial proceedings to the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York by the panel on multidistrict litigation.

Earlier this month, Eli Lilly challenged the adequacy of the state’s responses to interrogatories and document demands it had made in June. The magistrate judge’s Order concluded that New Mexico had neither replied to Lilly’s attempts to confer in good faith on this issue nor had it provided the court with any justification whatsoever for its boilerplate objections. The state’s silence on this issue “underscores the indefensible nature of its responses.” Apparently, the state had ignored the specificity requirement for objection and merely labeled each request as “unintelligible” or “irrelevant.” The court also faulted the state for not including a privilege log.

Discovery is supposed to be a two-way street.