The City of Baltimore has joined the thousands of plaintiffs seeking financial compensation for cancer allegedly caused by exposure to a hidden carcinogen in the popular heartburn drug Zantac (ranitidine). In this post we will look at the odd nature of the Zantac lawsuit filed by the City of Baltimore and evaluate its chances of success.
About the Zantac Cancer Lawsuits
Zantac is the popular brand name for ranitidine, an antacid drug used for the treatment of heart burn, indigestion and other common conditions. Zantac and generic ranitidine had been around for decades in both over-the-counter and prescription forms. It was one of the most commonly used medications in the U.S. Over 10 million people used Zantac on a regular basis.
In 2019, however, Zantac was suddenly pulled off the market after it was discovered that ranitidine could break down over time into a chemical called NDMA. NDMA is a well-known human carcinogen and chronic exposure to NDMA has been linked to various types of cancer.
The Zantac recall was quickly followed by a wave of product liability lawsuits by plaintiffs claiming that their regular exposure to NDMA in Zantac caused them to develop cancer. Thousands of these Zantac cancer lawsuits were filed by plaintiffs around the country and those in federal courts were consolidated into an MDL in Florida (In re: Zantac (Ranitidine) Prod. Liab. Lit. – 20-MD-2924)(S.D. Fl.).
Baltimore City’s Zantac Lawsuit
The case currently pending in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City styled as Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. GlaxoSmithKline, LLC, et al. (24-C-20004788) (the “Baltimore City Zantac Case”) was filed on November 12, 2020, by the Baltimore City Law Department and private outside counsel. The Complaint in the Baltimore City Zantac Case makes all the same allegations as other Zantac cancer lawsuits.
What makes the Baltimore City Zantac Case unusual is that the plaintiff is not an injured person with cancer, but the City of Baltimore, a local municipality. A municipality like the City of Baltimore obviously did not take Zantac for heartburn and cannot develop cancer, which makes it an odd plaintiff in a product liability case.
Rather than seeking traditional tort damages for personal injury, Baltimore City is essentially seeking reimbursement for the money it paid over the years for Zantac prescriptions through health insurance programs. This type of claim by a local government is highly unusual and it effectively amounts to a “tort tax” for the City.
Moreover, if this claim succeeds it would create a precedent with major implications. It would essentially mean that any municipality in Maryland could get “tort” compensation for almost any defect product or drug that they may have funded through a healthcare or welfare program. For example, Baltimore City could file another lawsuit seeking compensation for money it paid through programs to fund prescriptions for Elmiron, a bladder control drug that can cause serious vision damage. Anne Arundel County could sue Philips for reimbursement of money it paid to health and welfare plans that funded the purchase of now recalled CPAP machines.
Will the Baltimore City Zantac Case Succeed?
It seems very unlikely that the claims in the Baltimore City Zantac Case will ultimately be successful. The City does not have standing to bring a traditional product liability tort claim because “physical harm” is an essential element. The City’s alternative claim seeks damages under the Maryland consumer protection statute. There is simply no precedent in Maryland (or elsewhere) to support the claim that a municipality has legal standing as a ”consumer” under such as statute.
Maryland Zantac Lawyers
The product liability lawyers at Miller & Zois are currently accepting new Zantac cancer cases. If you were diagnosed with cancer after taking Zantac (or generic ranitidine products) for at least 1 year, call us today for a free consultation at 800-553-8082.