In November of 2016, I signed with Pendley, Baudin, and Coffin. Chris Coffin, out of New Orleans, was the lead counsel of the MDL, and I wanted to sign with a local firm. Though 12,000 other women across the US had signed up to be part of the litigation, it is/was not a class action. An MDL is a multi-district litigation filed in federal court. You can find out more about what an MDL means here. In December of 2016, my case was filed in court, and my journey began. I was told that if and when I go to trial that I would be the sole plaintiff.
Over the last five years, I had to complete an onerous plaintiff fact sheet listing all doctor visits and so much more, send in 100s of pictures, and suffer through three depositions that lasted a total of 16 hours. Yet, I still didn't expect to go to trial. As is custom in MDL cases, the judge set up several bellwether trials to test the waters and see which side would be favored by a jury. The first bellwether trial for the Taxotere litigation occurred in September 2019, and the plaintiff lost. I was not selected for the second trial until all the other plaintiffs were thrown out by the judge. Then, once my case was selected, it was postponed three times because of the pandemic. On November 8th, 2021, the jury was selected and my trial began.
I learned a lot before and during the eight days of the trial. First and foremost, the defense can lie. Sanofi was represented by Shook, Hardy, & Bacon who are true sharks--I witnessed the teeth in the courtroom. They do not have to prove their lies. I didn't quite get that until the defense said in court that my hair fully grew back in 2009 and later fell out. This is just not true then or now. They illustrated this to the jury by using a handful of the 800 pictures that I had given to them. Since March of 2009 when I stopped wearing a head covering and my hair began to grow back after chemo, I didn't take many photos of the top of my head or the back of my head where there is the most significant hair loss. Who would? Depending on the light with a picture taken straight on my face, it could look like I had a full head of hair. The pictures tell a story, but that story could be manipulated depending on which pictures were shown. Of course, my lawyers showed many pictures, too, but the jury chose to believe the other side. Another lie was that my doctors told me that there was a possibility that my hair would not grow back. I can tell you, and my husband who was there every step of the way will agree that every nurse and every doctor told us that my hair would grow back. Every single one. Unfortunately, my two oncologists only testified in court via a video-taped deposition. Both said that they would not have told me that my hair was definitely going to grow back. I know that they did tell me it would return, and I remember it clearly because it was very important to me to have my hair grow back. Every woman who I knew who had chemo before me and lost their hair during treatment ended up with a full head of hair after their treatment ended. Mine did not.
Another huge issue at trial was the informed consent that I was obligated to sign before undergoing chemotherapy. Included in this form was a list of possible side effects to the chemotherapy that I would be taking. Some of these side effects are onerous; this is chemotherapy. No matter what drugs that I would take, there would be possible side effects. Below is the list of risks of side effects possible when taking Taxotere. You can see that hair loss is listed. It does not qualify the type of hair loss--permanent or temporary. Since all the women I knew who were treated with chemotherapy had their hair grow back, temporary is how I read it. Patients can experience many other debilitating side effects with this drug, too, as you can see in the list below. Along with hair loss, other side effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and with those issues, I expected the effects would be felt during treatment only and be temporary just like the hair loss.
(Double click on the images below to enlarge them)