April 7, 2014

American consumers have filed hundreds of lawsuits against global pharmaceutical corporation Boehringer Ingelheim after its blood thinning drug Pradaxa allegedly caused severe bleeding. But Boehringer and the law firm it hired, Covington & Burling, have not been playing fair in the ensuing litigation.

In December 2013, a federal judge in Illinois fined Boehringer almost $1 million for failing to preserve and withholding “countless” documents sought by Pradaxa consumers. U.S. District Court Judge David Herndon ruled that Boehringer acted in bad faith by failing to preserve and withholding documents relevant to the Pradaxa lawsuits. Herndon called the defendants’ conduct “egregious” in his ruling.

Patients injured by Pradaxa and their families allege that the drug posed seriously and even fatal risks to consumers. The lawsuits allege that Boehringer was aware of these risks and still decided to market and sell the drug. According to media reports, Pradaxa has been tied to more than 540 deaths in the United States.

Boehringer blamed the missing or destroyed documents on IT departments, employees, lack of experience, the size of the lawsuit (the defendants claimed they did not know Pradaxa would transform into a nationwide mass tort), accidentally erasing hard drives, and being unaware of missing documents. The defendants also tried claiming that the injured patients’ lawyers asked for too many documents.

This fiasco demonstrates the aggressive and potentially unethical tactics that large corporate defendants and their counsel may take when adopting a “victory at all costs” approach. Time and time again, law firms that represent injured victims like The Cochran Firm, D.C. are forced to litigate over illegal and unethical tactics. Documents should not be withheld because they are unfavorable or because a party to a lawsuit is afraid of what they say. We applaud Judge Herndon for his courage in firmly reprimanding and disciplining the defendants in the Pradaxa litigation for their outrageous behavior.