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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal testosterone drug lawsuits indicates that the bellwether schedule previously established, which calls for the first Androgel trial to begin in June 2017, is “set in stone” and will not be pushed back.
There are currently more than 6,000 Androgel lawsuits, Axiron lawsuits, Testim lawsuits and other claims over side effects of testosterone replacement therapy pending in the federal court system, which are centralized before U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois, as part of an MDL, or Multidistrict litigation.
Each of the claims raise similar allegations that the makers of various different testosterone drugs failed to adequately warn users or the medical community about the potential risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or other injury.
The litigation has been consolidated for pretrial proceedings and a series of early trial dates, given the similar questions of fact and law raised in the complaints.
As part of the MDL proceedings, the parties have been preparing a group of Androgel cases for early trial dates, since that is the most widely used testosterone replacement therapy. The first of six claims is set to go before a jury on June 5, 2017, with additional trials expected to begin about every four weeks.
While the outcomes of these early bellwether trials will not be binding on other claims, they are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain testimony and evidence that will be repeated throughout the litigation, and Judge Kennelly has previously indicated that he is unwilling to move the start of the bellwether trial schedule.
This position was reiterated in a case management order (PDF) issued on November 23, which addressed competing proposals submitted by the parties regarding a fact discovery cut off date.
“The Court has advised the parties, repeatedly, that this [first trial] date is set in stone,” wrote Judge Kennelly. “The Court has also advised the parties that all of the AbbVie bellwether trial cases are to be trial-ready before that date, so that if one or more cases is dismissed for one reason or another, others will move up in line to meet the June 5 start date.”
To maintain this schedule, Judge Kennelly has ordered that non-party discovery must be completed by February 7, with objections to outstanding discovery requests presented to the court no later than December 12, so that they may be ruled upon at the December 15 case management conference. He also called for a joint status report that includes a proposed deadline for disclosure of witnesses for trial to be filed in advance of that same December 15 conference.
A lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Konrad has been identified as the first case that will be tried, involving a myocardial infarction following use of Androgel.
Following the series of Androgel bellwether trials, Judge Kennelly is expected to schedule a second group of bellwether trials involving individuals who used other drugs.
If the parties fail to reach testosterone settlements or another resolution for the litigation following the bellwether trials, Judge Kennelly could begin remanding hundreds of individual trials to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates.