Why? The Superior Court of Atlantic County, which is located in the shadow of Atlantic City's hulking casinos, remains what ATRA calls "a center for mass tort actions, often directed at one of the state's own economic generators, pharmaceutical manufacturers." The group calculates 93 percent of plaintiffs in New Jersey's pharmaceutical mass torts come from outside the state and the court houses central case management for six mass torts in the state, each involving a different drugmaker. Of course, several big drugmakers have - or, until recent mergers, did have - US or global headquarters in New Jersey.
As for Alabama, Attorney General Troy King hired personal injury lawyer Jere Beasley to sue 70 drugmakers, claiming pricing practices known to federal and state regulators amounted to fraud. The ATRA notes there were three multimillion-dollar verdicts in Montgomery County, but in October, the Alabama Supreme Court stepped in to stop what it characterized as "regulation by litigation" and threw out all three verdicts.
As ATRA recounts, verdicts came in against AstraZeneca, which paid $215 million (including $175 million in punitive damages), but was later reduced to $160 million; and against GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis totaling $114 million. In February, a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury returned a $78.4 million verdict against Novartis' Sandoz generic unit, including $50 million in punitive damages. The state has also settled lawsuits against 16 drugmakers for $124 million.
As ATRA sees it, the issue doesn't do justice to Alabama taxpayers. As of September, private attorneys working on lawsuits against drugmakers on behalf of the state had earned about $13 million this year, while the state got $38 million in settlement money to finance its withering budget.
The Alabama attorney general is one of several "who have used private, contingency-fee lawyers to bring actions on behalf of the state, raising questions as to whether law enforcement is about profiting lawyers and campaign contributors or about the public interest. The practice also siphons from taxpayers millions of dollars that the state would otherwise recover had it used its own lawyers rather than outside counsel." Here is the full report.
However, Tom Dart, chairman of the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee, a group which advocates tort reform, says he shared some of the ATRF's concerns on the pharmaceutical lawsuits, but added that he felt King's record was "positive" on the issue. "His body of work has been positive for the business community and for tort reform in general," he tells The Mobile Press-Register. "He's done good things that far outweigh those issues."