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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all testosterone lawsuits has scheduled a series of six “bellwether” trials for Androgel injury claims between April and November 2017, rejecting a request by AbbVie to bifurcate the process for the early test cases.
There are currently nearly 3,500 product liability lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system that involve injuries allegedly caused by side effects of testosterone replacement therapy, such as Androgel, Testim, Axiron, Androderm and other gels, patches, pills and injections.
Each of the cases raise similar claims that the manufacturers of the popular “low T” drugs failed to adequately warn that some men may face an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism or other injuries.
Since June 2014, complaints filed throughout the federal court system have been centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois, as part of an MDL, or Multi-District Litigation. The process is designed to avoid duplicative discovery into common issues, eliminate contradictory pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the Courts.
As part of the coordinated litigation, Judge Kennelly previously indicated that a small group of Androgel injury lawsuits filed against AbbVie will be prepared for early trial dates, since that is the most commonly used testosterone drug on the market.
Known as “bellwether” trials, the outcomes of these representative cases are intended to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation, and may facilitate eventual testosterone drug settlements to avoid the need for thousands of cases to go before juries throughout the U.S.
Androgel Bellwether Trials Extended
While a series of six trials were originally expected to begin between October 2016 and April 2017, the parties filed competing proposals to revise the Androgel bellwether schedule last month.
In a case management order (PDF) issued December 10, Judge Kennelly rejected the proposal made by the makers of Androgel, which called for the discovery process to be split into two phases regarding general causation and other matters, which would have substantially delayed the entire bellwether trial schedule.
“The Court is unpersuaded that the revised proposal by the AbbVie defendants to bifurcate expert discovery and summary judgment….represents a fair, efficient, and reasonable way to manage the pretrial proceedings in this case,” Judge Kennelly wrote. “The Court has, however, elongated to some extent the overall process as proposed by plaintiffs for selecting AbbVie-only bellwether cases. The Court has done so to ensure fairness to all parties and to maximize the likelihood that the bellwether selection and trial process will be both representative and productive.”
The revised Androgel bellwether schedule now calls for core discovery to be completed in 32 initial pool cases by May 23, 2016. A proposal for selection of the eligible trial cases is to be submitted by June 7, 2016, after which the court will select up to 12 claims for trial. Depositions of expert witnesses in those cases will be completed by December 2, 2016, following which any motions for Summary Judgement or challenges to the admissibility of expert testimony will be considered by the Court.
Androgel trials are now expected to begin on April 21, 2017; June 5, 2017; July 10, 2017; August 21, 2017; September 25, 2017 and November 6, 2017.
In addition to claims involving the use of Androgel, Judge Kennelly is also presiding over all Axiron lawsuits, Testim lawsuits, Androderm lawsuits and other cases involving injuries from different testosterone replacement drugs.
Following these initial Androgel trial dates, a second series of bellwether trials will be scheduled involving other “low T” drugs. In the revised case management order, Judge Kennelly indicated that counsel will promptly negotiate and present a prosed plan for selecting these cases involving products manufactured by companies other than AbbVie.