High Court clears way for Baycol class action

Bayer will have to fight a potential class action suit over its cholesterol drug Baycol. The U.S. Supreme Court negated a Minnesota judge's ban on class actions over the drug, allowing two West Virginia plaintiffs to continue in their attempts to gain class-action status for their complaint. The Minnesota ruling had underpinned Bayer's argument against the Baycol case.

West Virginia plaintiffs Kevin Smith and Shirley Sperlazza had moved to sue Bayer on behalf of all state residents who used Baycol, which was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2001 after 31 reported deaths associated with a muscle-breakdown disorder. The Minnesota court where the Baycol actions had been consolidated had already rejected class status for other plaintiffs. So, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the rejection also applied to the West Virginia plaintiffs.

But the Supremes decided the circuit court "exceeded its authority," and the action should be allowed to proceed. The two West Virginians will still have to argue their case for class certification in state court.

Bayer said it was disappointed by the ruling. The company said it would "continue to defend this case, including on the issue of class certification, should it move forward at the state level." Baycol has already cost the company $1.17 billion in settlements.

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