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It is an honor for a mass tort lawyer to be appointed to a leadership role in a nationwide multidistrict litigation (MDL). Just a handful of attorneys are chosen among many applicants to spearhead the litigation and take on a higher level of responsibility. Historically, it hasn’t been easy for minority groups, including women, to be appointed to MDL roles like co-lead counsel and as members of steering committees. That’s why the recently appointed plaintiffs’ leadership in the Zantac litigation is especially notable.

The Zantac lawsuits were consolidated in the Southern District of Florida in February 2020. The litigation is centered around warnings that the popular heartburn drug Zantac (ranitidine) has unacceptable levels of cancer-causing NDMA. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently requested all manufacturers pull the medication immediately and recommended that those with ranitidine prescriptions speak with their physicians about other treatment options.

In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Judge Robin L. Rosenberg appointed 26 lawyers to spearhead the litigation over Zantac’s cancer risk. Many members of the leadership teams are minority attorneys; nearly half are women. Judge Rosenberg described her innovative selection process as follows:

“…the Court sought to draw…also from smaller firms as well as newer firms, recognizing that each type of firm brings unique and different capacities to the litigation. The Court also sought to appoint a diverse leadership team that is representative of the inevitable diversity of the Plaintiffs in this case, and a team that affords younger and slightly less experienced attorneys an opportunity to participate in a leadership role in an MDL. The Court sought to create a team that would collectively bring to bear both wisdom and judgment, and also new approaches and ideas.”

In the May 8 order, Judge Rosenberg named co-lead counsel and plaintiffs’ liaison counsel as well as members of the steering committee and a “leadership development committee.” The latter is made up of attorneys who impressed the Court and demonstrated the potential to become leaders within the MDL bar. Judge Rosenberg’s progressive order noted that these members will benefit from the mentorship and experience from participating in the committee.

Congrats to all the men and women who received appointments in the Zantac MDL. It is unique to have 13/24 appointments being women, so special recognition goes to:

  • Tracy Finken
  • Melanie Muhlstock
  • Carmen Scott
  • Conlee Whiteley
  • Marlene Goldenberg
  • Lauren Miller
  • Roopal Luhana
  • Rosemarie Bogdan
  • Beth Fegan
  • Sarah Westcot
  • Paige Boldt
  • Je Yon Jung
  • Nicola Larmond-Harvey

As Judge Rosenberg noted, work still needs to be done to provide MDL leadership applicant pools that reflect “the diversity of not only our society but our profession, particularly at the senior levels of leadership.” But her appointments are certainly a step in the right direction and will surely motivate more exceptional attorneys to reach for these leadership roles in the future. 

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