WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court
ruled on Thursday that West Virginia plaintiffs can proceed
with a class-action lawsuit against Bayer AG over Baycol, its
cholesterol-lowering drug withdrawn from the market in 2001.
The justices unanimously overturned a U.S. appeals court's
ruling that the lawsuit could not go forward because a federal
judge had earlier rejected a similar class-action lawsuit filed
by another West Virginia plaintiff.
The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals sided with Bayer and
ruled that the two plaintiffs could not relitigate the issue in
seeking class-action certification.
Baycol was distributed from 1997 until August 2001, when
the prescription drug was withdrawn from the market after its
use had been linked to 31 deaths in the United States,
according to the appeals court.
Bayer has said it had settled the claims of more than 3,100
individuals for $1.17 billion and vigorously contested the
lawsuits of other plaintiffs who did not suffer any adverse
side effects from the drug.
The company said the plaintiffs in the case waited seven
years after filing their lawsuit before seeking class
certification and that the issue had been resolved in the
The West Virginia plaintiffs said they did not know of the
other lawsuit and had the right to proceed in state court.
The Supreme Court in an opinion written by Justice Elena
Kagan ruled against Bayer and reinstated the lawsuit.
She said that in enjoining the state court from considering
the class certification request, a federal judge had exceeded
his authority under the Anti-Injunction Act.
The federal judge thought the injunction appropriate to
prevent relitigation of an issue he had decided, but Kagan
disagreed for two reasons.
First, she said the issue presented in state court was not
identical to the one decided in the federal tribunal. Second,
the state court plaintiffs did not have the required connection
to the federal suit to be bound by the federal court judgment.
The Supreme Court case is Smith v. Bayer, No. 09-1205.
For the West Virginia plaintiffs: Richard Monahan of The
Masters Law Firm.
For Bayer: Philip Beck of Bartlit & Beck; Peter Sipkins of
Dorsey & Whitney; Susan Weber of Sidley & Austin.
(Reporting by James Vicini)