Tort Tuesday: Pharma company faces $1B class action over diabetes drug

Photo credit: Diabetes medication. Stock photo by Getty Images.

The last thing you expect of your diabetes medication is major kidney damage.

Tony Merchant, lawyer with Merchant Law Group in Regina, is moving to certify a class action against the diabetes drug Invokana for causing kidney failure. The lawsuit seeks $1 billion in damages alleging Invokana was not tested properly.

Invokana is produced by the multinational company Janssen Inc. and was approved by Health Canada in May of 2014. Nova Scotia recently approved the drug for its pharamacare program, the third province to do so after Ontario and Quebec.

The class representative is a woman from Toronto, who took the questionable drug for eight months, but discontinued it after watching a TV commercial featuring a U.S. class action against Invokana. She was subsequently tested for kidney problems. According to the statement of claim, she showed signs of kidney failure.

While some physicians think Invokana is safe, Health Canada is currently reviewing the drug. This may lead to a conditional approval, where changes will have to be made to Invokana or it may face a complete withdrawal of Health Canada’s approval.

The class action has not yet been certified, a process whereby a judge decides whether a valid claim exists across a class of claimants with shared interests.

Federal Court sides with U.S. tax authorities

A new ruling by the Federal Court disappointed two dual American-Canadian citizens who wanted a court injunction to block the transfer of their Canadian banking information to U.S. tax authorities.

The federal court ruled that the transfer does not offend the Canada-US tax treaty. The court did not, however, answer whether the transfer of information will offend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is now before the courts.

The Canadian banks’ transfer of information to Canada Revenue Agency is to comply with the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), a relatively new American law that goes after Americans who use foreign bank accounts to evade paying their U.S. taxes.

Both female plaintiffs were five years old when they moved to Canada from the United States and have not lived in the U.S., held an American passport, or worked in the U.S. since.

Unlike nearly all Western countries, the U.S. requires its citizens living abroad to file U.S. tax returns. FACTA was passed to target American citizens who use offshore accounts and tax havens like Switzerland for tax evasion purposes. Some fear, however, that the legislation is instead affecting Americans who live in Canada who do not necessarily owe any U.S. taxes.

If you are a dual citizen, stay alert to your tax return filing obligations on both sides of the border.

Former Vanoc boss wins defamation suit

John Furlong is the former Vancouver Olympics boss. A journalist, Laura Robinson, reported allegations that eight First Nations people were abused by Furlong while he was a gym teacher in a northern B.C. school more than 40 years ago in 1969 and 1970.

A B.C. Supreme Court Judge found this to be defamation and ruled: “Ms. Robinson’s publications…cannot be fairly characterized as the reporting of other persons' allegations against him…Rather, the publications constitute an attack by Ms. Robinson on Mr. Furlong's character, conduct and credibility.”

Robinson had circulated a written notice looking for people who were abused by Furlong. The judge interpreted this as Robinson’s sources not coming forward on their own, which made it possible for witnesses to contaminate each other’s memories.

Additionally, three of Robinson’s sources filed sexual abuse lawsuits against Furlong, but the courts found that two of them did not attend the school where Furlong taught in ’69 and ’70. The third lawsuit was dropped.

Robinson believed she may have been part of an extortion scheme without her knowledge but the judge found her guilty of defamation nonetheless.

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