Additional groupings of Accutane lawsuits have been scheduled for trial in New Jersey state court in October 2011 and January 2012, as progress is made to litigate thousands of claims filed by individuals who allege they developed severe bowel problems from the acne medication.
According to a court order issued on June 2 by New Jersey Judge Carol E. Higbee, at least 8 cases will be prepared for trial with jury selection beginning on October 11, 2011. In addition, four other cases will be selected for another Accutane trial that will begin with jury selection on January 9, 2012.
There are currently nearly 3,500 lawsuits over Accutane filed in New Jersey state court. All of the claims involve allegations that side effects of Accutane caused users to develop inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Judge Higbee is overseeing the Accutane litigation in New Jersey, which has been centralized as a mass tort in Atlantic County.
In April, a New Jersey jury awarded $2 million in damages to a woman who developed ulcerative colitis from Accutane. However, the same jury declined to award damages to two other plaintiffs involved in the same trial.
The trial date set for October will involve several groupings of plaintiffs with similar facts and warnings in place at the time the medication was used. At least three of the cases will involve plaintiffs who used Accutane after April 2002. For the trial set for January 2012, attorneys have been asked to designate cases in which the use of Accutane occurred prior to April 2002.
Another Accutane trial is already scheduled for August 2011, involving the retrial of a case filed by Kamie Kendall, who was previously awarded $10.5 million for damages from Accutane. That earlier verdict was reversed on appeal because Roche was wrongly prohibited from introducing evidence about the number of individuals who have used the acne medication over the years. At least one or two other Accutane suits that are compatible with the Kendall case are expected to go to trial before the same jury.
Known generically as isotretinoin, Accutane has been linked to an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease, which could lead to ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or other damage to internal organs. This has left many former users of the acne medication with severe stomach and gastrointestinal problems that can cause a great deal of pain and can have a devastating impact on their quality of life.
These early trial dates, commonly referred to as bellwether trials, are useful in complex litigation involving a large number of cases, as they allow the parties to gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence that will be similar to what is presented in other cases. The outcome of these cases may help facilitate a possible Accutane settlement agreement.
So far, plaintiffs have been successful in seven out of the nine cases that have been presented to a jury, with millions of dollars in damages from Accutane being awarded.
At the same time cases are proceeding to trial, Accutane lawyers continue to file new cases. Over the past 30 days, at least 150 people have filed a new Accutane lawsuit in New Jersey state court and the number of new cases is expected to continue as individuals throughout the United States learn that their bowel problems may have been caused by use of the acne medication.