News about dangerous drugs or medical devices that have been taken off the market are everywhere. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates these products, in many cases, they still make it to the market and often harm consumers.
When word gets out about these potentially dangerous drugs and devices, the general public gets to know the possible risks of using a certain product. However, in some cases, no matter how careful we are, bad things still happen.
As a result, several people become victims of these products. They suffer from unspeakable injuries and complications that they wouldn’t have imagined when they used the product. In these cases, injured patients often turn to the law to seek justice against those who harmed them.
Once many cases have already been filed against a certain entity, these can be combined into a multidistrict litigation (MDL). From there, bellwether cases can be used as a benchmark for other cases in the same class.
Read the article to learn more about bellwether trials and how they can affect your case if you’re involved in legal proceedings related to dangerous drugs and medical devices.
What is a bellwether trial?
A bellwether trial is a test trial consisting of a small group of lawsuits that are similar to other cases in the MDL. The chosen cases are brought to trial first. Basically, bellwether cases serve as a benchmark for the future of the litigation as a whole. These trials give everyone a sense of how the legal proceedings may turn out.
Bellwether trials are typically used in mass tort actions, which occur when numerous innocent people are harmed or injured by the same prescription drug or medical device with undisclosed side effects.
Take, for instance, the recent legal proceedings in the hernia mesh lawsuits. These are cases filed by plaintiffs who claim that they suffered from serious and at times life-threatening complications because the devices were potentially defective and had faulty designs. In August of this year, the first hernia mesh bellwether trial took place.
Unfortunately, it ended with a defense win for the manufacturers of the device following a short jury deliberation.
To gain a better understanding on how lawsuits are narrowed down into bellwether cases, it’s also helpful to look into how a mass tort litigation works.
Mass Torts And Multidistrict Litigation
Mass tort cases are brought on by multiple plaintiffs who have a similar case against makers of defective drugs or medical devices.
This large group of victims who deserve financial compensation for their losses file lawsuits to be rightfully compensated.
However, because in many cases, hundreds or thousands of lawsuits all involve the same adverse effects or injuries, it can be overwhelming. Therefore, courts will be disorganized if they hear every case individually.
As a result, once there are enough cases that have been filed, an MDL is formed to speed up the litigation process. An MDL is a legal process designed to handle large and complex cases filed by a large number of people in multiple courts. In an MDL, these cases are combined and eventually transferred to one federal court.
After an MDL has been established, the judge overseeing the cases as well as related attorneys will select lawsuits to be included in the bellwether trials.
The Bellwether Process: How a Case Gets Chosen
In the process of selecting bellwether cases, attorneys from both sides as well as the judge presiding over the MDL are involved. Usually, a bellwether case is chosen from a larger pool of cases that each side proposes.
The lawsuits that will make it to trial are selected based on how similar they are to the rest of the MDL cases. In other words, they’re chosen because they are a good representation of the majority of the lawsuits.
Once a few, select cases are chosen, they are transferred to a single federal court where pretrial proceedings will take place. If plaintiffs receive favorable verdicts or settlements from the beginning cases, the decision may largely influence settlement discussions in future cases.
The Significance Of A Bellwether Case
A bellwether trial is a test case that serves as an important tool in handling a large pool of lawsuits. Its outcome can inform both parties involved if they will proceed with litigation or settle their claims.
It is also important in determining the terms of settlements or agreements. If the outcome goes well for the plaintiffs, it can set the stage for possible settlement discussions.
To sum it up, bellwether cases are extremely important because they provide valuable insight into how future cases may proceed.