Plaintiffs Worldwide to Join Bayer Lawsuit in U.S. - Reuters - January 14, 2002

Plaintiffs Worldwide to Join Bayer Lawsuit in U.S.
Reuters
January 14, 2002

BERLIN (Reuters) — U.S. and German attorneys said they would file an amended class-action lawsuit in the United States against Bayer AG on Monday to include victims of anti-cholesterol drug Baycol in Germany and other countries.

The German drugs and chemicals group in August withdrew Baycol, which was sold under the name of Lipobay in countries outside the United States, after it was linked with more than 50 deaths around the world.

``For those here (in Germany), we will not leave you behind as second-class victims. We are bringing you into the American lawsuit,'' prominent German attorney Michael Witti told reporters on Monday. ``This is the price of globalisation.''

Including non-U.S. cases in a U.S. class-action lawsuit could be costlier for Bayer than if the cases were heard by German or other courts. The United States allows for punitive damages, and cases there often have higher compensation payouts.

Bayer said it was confident U.S. courts would dismiss the attempt to include foreign cases in the U.S. class-action suit. ``We expect a rejection of the international class-action lawsuit from the U.S. judges,'' a Bayer spokesman said on Monday.

Chicago-based attorney Kenneth Moll, who is working with Witti, said Bayer's U.S subsidiaries were essential to the production of the drug.

``The proper form to bring this type of case is in the United States,'' Moll said. ``The general make-up, the design protocol, the testing protocol all occurred in the United States.''

EMOTIONAL RESPONSE

At a news conference, the lawyers presented two men whom they said had suffered from Baycol. One, Hans Hoffmann, broke down in tears as he described how his wife suffered a heart attack and died after taking Lipobay.

Berlin resident Juergen Klockgether said he suffered extreme muscle weakness after taking Lipobay. But Witti and Moll both cut him off when he was asked if he felt Bayer AG in Germany or its U.S. subsidiaries were ultimately responsible.

In recent years Witti and others have successfully lobbied Germany and its industry to compensate Nazi- era slave labourers mostly from eastern Europe after threatening U.S. lawsuits.

Witti said he would drag any case he could legally into the United States, especially when he sees European regulations concerning legal liabilities as deficient.

He said that he would turn to U.S. courts even in cases such as the 2000 train fire in Kaprun, Austria, in which 155 people trapped in a tunnel died.

Lawyers said they would file the amended Baycol lawsuit with the U.S. district court in Minnesota on Monday morning.

It names Bayer AG and U.S. subsidiary Bayer Corporation as defendants, as well as GlaxoSmithKline Plc (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: GSK.L). SmithKline Beecham, before it merged with Glaxo, had agreed in 1997 to co-market the cholesterol-lowering drug in the United States.