S.D. Florida court denies bankruptcy trustee’s motion to reconsider dismissal of Aredia®/Zometa® case based on judicial estoppel.



S.D. Fla. -- United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Complex Litigation

On December 10, 2013, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied a motion for reconsideration of a June 27, 2013 order granting Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation’s motion for summary judgment based on judicial estoppel in Taylor v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. 0:06-cv-61337-JIC (S.D. Fla. December 10, 2013) (click here for order).

In June 2013, the court found that plaintiff Keith Taylor “inexplicably” failed to disclose his pending claim against Novartis to the bankruptcy court when he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and that “the record unequivocally establishes that Plaintiff had a motive to conceal this lawsuit . . . to obtain a discharge of nearly $200,000 in debt while any funds he later recovered in this case would be his own.”  6/27/13 Order at 7.  Noting that “[f]ull and honest disclosures in bankruptcy proceedings are ‘crucial to the system[]’s effective functioning,” id. at 6, the court concluded that “Plaintiff has made a mockery of the judicial system.”  Id. at 8.  Based on these conclusions, the court applied the doctrine of judicial estoppel to protect the integrity of the judicial process, and dismissed plaintiff’s case, preventing him from asserting the inconsistent position that he had a claim against Novartis after stating under oath in the bankruptcy proceeding that he did not.

The trustee in charge of Mr. Taylor’s bankruptcy case filed motions seeking reconsideration of the June 2013 summary judgment order and to be substituted as plaintiff in the case because Mr. Taylor’s lawsuit against Novartis was property of the bankruptcy estate, not Mr. Taylor.  Although the trustee successfully reopened the bankruptcy case prior to the court’s summary judgment order, the court observed that “[a]t no point, however, did the Trustee ever inform this Court that the bankruptcy case had been reopened or otherwise indicate that the Trustee planned to intervene in this action.”  12/10/13 Order at 4.  “Instead, the Trustee apparently relied upon Plaintiff’s counsel to ask this Court to permit her to intervene,” a reliance the Court found to be “misplaced” given that “[p]laintiff’s counsel continued to assert that Plaintiff had standing to prosecute his claims.”  Id.  The court thus denied the trustee’s requested relief, noting “the Trustee’s marked lack of diligence in keeping this Court apprised of her intentions is not grounds . . . to reconsider the June 27, 2013 Order.”

This case was part of the ongoing Aredia® and Zometa® multidistrict litigation, In re: Aredia® and Zometa® Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 3:06-MD- 01760 (TJC) (M.D. Tenn.), and had been remanded to the Southern District of Florida for a trial that was scheduled to begin this fall.

The Taylor decision is the latest in a string of Novartis wins in federal and state courts in litigation alleging that ONJ resulted from treatment with Aredia® and/or Zometa®, which are used to treat patients who have cancer that has metastasized to bone. 

Novartis has won 60 cases on summary judgment and obtained dismissal of over 200 other cases in the Aredia®/Zometa® federal and state consolidated litigations.

Novartis is represented in this matter by Firm partner Matthew J. Malinowski.