Judge tosses decade-old investor suit against Pfizer weeks before trial

A long-running and often contentious securities lawsuit tied to Pfizer's ($PFE) pain drugs Bextra and Celebrex was set for a September trial, but is going into the dustbin of history instead. A federal judge in New York has dismissed the case a decade after it was filed and 9 weeks before proceedings were to commence.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain tossed the litigation Tuesday, Reuters reports, after an earlier ruling in which she said the plaintiff's key expert had an unacceptable method of tallying up damages. The lead plaintiff was the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana. The plaintiffs tried to rally by amending the report of Daniel Fischel, a former dean of the law school at the University of Chicago, but Swain said that was a dead end as well. "Plaintiffs' failure to proffer admissible loss causation and damages evidence is fatal to plaintiffs' claims," Swain wrote.

Pfizer said in a statement that it always believed "the company's historical statements about Celebrex and Bextra were accurate."

The investors never agreed with Pfizer on that point. Bextra was withdrawn from the market in 2005 because of heart attack risks. The investors initially sued Pfizer over statements made about the "safety and marketability" of the drugs, claiming Pfizer kept quiet about both drugs' safety risks. It escalated from there and in 2012 broke out into a fight over whether the drug giant hid and destroyed records to keep the plaintiffs from seeing them, allegations that Pfizer hotly denied.

The suit covered investors who bought Pfizer stock between Oct. 31, 2000, and Oct. 19, 2005, Reuters says. It claimed that before the fall of 2004, Pfizer executives hid results of safety tests on the drugs that started in 1998 and showed the risks of the products. When the potential dangers became public, the lawsuit says sales of the pain drugs fell more than $2 billion in the first 9 months of 2005 and the company's market cap lost $68.4 billion between October 2004 and October 2005.

- read the Reuters story