U.S. District Judge Gene E. K. Pratter, a prominent federal judge known for handling high-profile cases, passed away at 75 on May 17, 2024. Her death came just one day after she issued two opinions in ongoing cases. Judge Pratter served the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for 20 years and was well-respected for her legal expertise and commitment to justice.

Colleagues said that she will leave a lasting memory as an excellent multidistrict litigation (MDL) jurist and a beloved mentor who made significant contributions to the legal community. At the time of her death, Pratter presided over MDL-3094, IN RE: Glucagon-like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists (GLP-1 RAs) Products Liability Litigation. This involved serious side effects of Ozempic, Mounjaro and other GLP-1 drugs. The MDL was only recently consolidated and had 87 active lawsuits as of May 1, 2024.

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What Her Death Means to the Ozempic Multidistrict Litigation

The death of Judge Pratter raises questions about the future of the Ozempic MDL. This MDL consolidates numerous lawsuits from across the country in Philadelphia. Plaintiffs allege that drug manufacturers Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly did not adequately warn about the side effects of their diabetes and weight-loss medications.

The litigation involves claims from patients who suffered serious side effects such as stomach paralysis, vomiting, constipation and bowel obstruction after taking drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy. The lawsuits argue that the drug companies failed to properly inform users of these risks, leading to significant health issues.

Multidistrict litigation allows cases to be retransferred to another judge if the current judge dies. This reassignment is crucial for the continuity and efficient handling of the litigation. The Executive Committee will oversee the process, distribute Pratter’s remaining caseload among other judges, and assign a new judge to take over the MDL.

While the transition may cause some delays for attorneys, the legal system has rules and precedents to ensure that such changes do not hinder the progress of significant cases. The new judge will continue to manage the MDL — though there is no clear timetable.

Judge Pratter’s Legacy

Judge Pratter’s fellow judges of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania praised her legacy in a joint statement.

Chief Justice John Roberts had selected her for the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules, showcasing her national influence. She played a significant role in amending the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure there.

Pratter’s legacy is not only defined by her judicial decisions but also by her dedication to ethics and professional conduct. She traveled internationally to promote judicial ethics and was an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The Philadelphia Bar Association highlighted her ability to balance professional responsibilities with family life, setting an example when women faced more significant barriers in the legal field.

Colleagues have said Pratter’s impact on the legal community is also evident through her teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she inspired future lawyers.