A federal court last week rejected an attempt to consolidate a newly filed proposed class action over Lexapro and Celexa with the multidistrict litigation involving the drugs. In Re: Celexa and Lexapro Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 1736 (E.D. Mo.).

Judge Rodney W. Sippel said in his ruling that plaintiffs had not demonstrated that consolidation would be appropriate. The MDL is currently comprised of 42 cases brought by individual plaintiffs who claim Lexapro or Celexa caused or induced a suicide or suicide attempt. In originally creating this MDL in 2006, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation noted that the actions shared allegations relating to the safety of Celexa or Lexapro and the adequacy of Forest’s warnings concerning the possible adverse effects of using the drugs, in particular, the potential for each product to induce its users to commit, or attempt to commit, suicide. The JPML recently declined to transfer two personal injury cases to the MDL because they involved injuries other than suicide.

The new suit, Universal Care, Inc., et al. v. Forest Laboratories, Inc., et al., on the other hand, involves allegations relating to Forest Laboratories Inc.’s marketing of the drugs, and economic damages allegedly caused from the sale of Celexa or Lexapro. Specifically, the new suit alleges violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and makes claims for unjust enrichment,  fraudulent concealment , and misrepresentation. The plaintiffs in this case claim that Forest engaged in improper promotional activities, causing third-party payors to reimburse patients and health care institutions for prescriptions of Lexapro and Celexa that were written for patients for whom the drugs were not indicated.

Moreover, the cases pending in the MDL are individual actions, not a putative class actions. The extensive discovery and motion practice relating to the alleged appropriateness of class-wide treatment and the adequacy of the class representatives are not part of the current MDL. These factors could significantly delay the progress of the MDL proceedings, prejudicing both the MDL plaintiffs and Forest. A final factor is that the MDL is already more than 2 years old, with significant pretrial proceedings already haven taken place.

Even in the MDL context, Rule 42 applies, and the court has discretion to assess the impact of allegedly common questions.  Consolidation is inappropriate if it causes confusion or leads to delay, inefficiency, inconvenience, or unfair prejudice to a party. E.g., EEOC v. HBE Corp., 135 F.3d 543, 551 (8th Cir. 1998).