With thousands of Actos lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system, all involving similar allegations that the makers of the diabetes drug failed to adequately warn about the risk of bladder cancer, a series of settlement conferences have been scheduled over the next year.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Hanna issued an order (PDF) on March 17, which schedules five formal settlement meetings between April 16, 2015 and March 18, 2016, before the next “bellwether” trial goes before a federal jury.
There are currently more than 4,000 product liability lawsuits pending nationwide against Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly, which each allege that inadequate warnings were provided about the risk of bladder cancer from side effects of Actos.
Since December 2011, complaints filed throughout the federal court system have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Rebecca F. Doherty in the Western District of Louisiana, as part of an MDL, or Multi-District Litigation.
As part of the coordinated proceedings in the MDL, small groups of cases have been prepared for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” cases, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
Earlier this year, Judge Doherty indicated that the parties will be required to meet to discuss settling Actos cases before the next bellwether trial, which is currently expected to begin in May 2016.
In April 2014, the first federal Actos trial resulted in a $9 billion jury award, after evidence was presented that indicated the drug makers destroyed evidence about the link between Actos and bladder cancer.
While Judge Doherty later reduced the punitive damage award in the case to $37 million, she indicated that the Supreme Court needs to update rules on what is considered excessive in order to effectively deter large corporations from engaging in the type of bad behavior exhibited by Takeda and Eli Lilly.
Negotiations to Settle Actos Bladder Cancer Cases
Formal settlement conferences in the Actos MDL have been scheduled for April 16, August 10, and October 23 of this year, and for January 10 and March 18, 2016.
During the conferences, the co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs’ steering committee, no more than two attorneys each for Eli Lilly and Takeda Pharmaceuticals, authorized representatives for those two companies, and representatives of any insurance company that may be involved in the claims, will all meet with a Special Master for formal negotiations.
The structure of the negotiations will be discussed at the first conference, which will be followed by a supplemental order detailing how the rest of the meetings will be constructed.
All contents of the settlement negotiations will be confidential, and all statements and documents involved with the conferences will be destroyed after the negotiations. If the parties fail to reach Actos settlement agreements, the bellwether trials will continue as scheduled.
A consolidated trial involving approximately five cases filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana are expected to go before one jury beginning on May 2, 2016. The Court will make a final designation of the cases that will go forward at that time by June 1, 2015.
In addition to the federal trial last year, a number of individual cases have gone before state court juries throughout the country, with multi-million damage awards returned in many of the cases. Most recently, Takeda was hit with a $3.6 million damage award in a Pennsylvania case, including $1.3 million in punitive damages designed to punish the drug makers.