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Actos Bellwether Trials in MDL to Begin January 2014

As the first Actos trial in the country is being presented to a California state court jury on behalf of a former users of the diabetes drug diagnosed with bladder cancer, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the federal Actos litigation has scheduled the first bellwether trial in the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) to begin early next year. 

In a Scheduling Order (PDF) issued on February 19, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty established a new “Pilot Bellwether Program” in the Actos MDL, with a stream-lined trial preparation schedule that is designed to result in a minimum of two trials in the federal court system, with the first beginning on January 27, 2014 and a second beginning on April 14, 2014.

Judge Doherty is presiding over pretrial proceedings in all Actos bladder cancer lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country.

More than 3,000 complaints have been filed by former users of Actos, and all lawsuits brought in the federal court system are being coordinated during pretrial proceedings before Judge Doherty in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. The consolidated proceedings are designed to reduce duplicative discovery in the cases, eliminate conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

All of the complaints involves similar allegations that side effects of Actos, which was used by millions of Americans for treatment of type 2 diabetes, increases the risk of bladder cancer when it is used over a long period of time.

The lawsuits claim that the drug’s manufacturer, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, failed to provide adequate warnings to consumers or the medical community and ignored information about the link between bladder cancer and Actos before the medication was even introduced.

In addition to the federal Actos lawsuits, a number of cases are pending in various state courts throughout the country.

Trial is currently underway in California state court involving a lawsuit filed by Jack Cooper, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer after using Actos for more than two years. The case was given an expedited trial date due to Cooper’s grave health.

Trial Schedule Considered “Hard and Fast”

While the first trials in the federal Actos litigation will begin about a year after Cooper’s trial began, Judge Doherty has established “hard and fast” deadlines to work through the large volume of cases pending in the MDL and prepare for the first trial dates within one year.

“This Court is aware that the schedule established herein will place extraordinary burdens on this Court, counsel and the parties,” wrote Judge Doherty in the Scheduling Order. “Nonetheless, this abbreviated schedule is imposed so as to serve the very important goal of moving these proceedings toward completion of this Court’s responsibilities in a reasonable timeframe.”

The Actos bellwether trials are designed to serve as test cases that will help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence, testimony and arguments that will probably be repeated throughout hundreds of similar claims filed by individuals diagnosed with bladder cancer after using the diabetes drug.

In complex pharmaceutical litigation involving a large number of claims over injuries linked to the same medication, the outcome of these early trial dates often help facilitate a resolution to the litigation and may result in agreements to settle Actos lawsuits without presenting each case to a jury.

Judge Doherty indicates that the deadlines established in the aggressive schedule will not be extended, continued or delayed unless there is “extraordinarily good cause shown.”

To prepare the first bellwether case for trial in federal court, the parties have been directed to each nominate 5 lawsuits for the Pilot Bellwether Discovery pool by April 1, 2013. The only cases that will be eligible for this initial trial pool will be lawsuits filed by Plaintiffs who have actually been diagnosed with bladder cancer after consuming Actos, such that no case will be considered if the Plaintiff only alleges that they have suffered symptoms or fear of developing cancer. To be eligible, Plaintiffs must also submit their Fact Sheet and a complete set of medical records prior to the Defendants by March 8, 2013.

Out of the initial pool of 10 bellwether cases, the Plaintiffs will identify their nominee for the first trial date by July 15, 2013 and the Defendants will identify their nominee for the second trial date at the same time.

All discovery in the cases is to be completed by October 1, 2013, with a pretrial conference scheduled for January 13, 2014 and the first trial set to begin on January 27th.

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