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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Elmiron lawsuits involving eye damage and vision issues has scheduled a “Science Day” for September, to give the parties the opportunity to educate the court about the scientific issues that will come up during the litigation.
There are currently more than 200 product liability claims filed against Johnson & Johnson and it’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary, each raising nearly identical allegations that the drug makers failed to warn users about the risk of eye issues from Elmiron side effects, indicating that if earlier information had been provided about the importance of monitoring for vision changes, plaintiffs may have avoided a form of permanent retina damage known as pigmentary maculopathy.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, consolidated pretrial proceedings for the Elmiron litigation was established in December, centralizing the claims before U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti in the District of New Jersey, for coordinated discovery and a series of early trials designed to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the cases.
To help promote potential Elmiron settlement negotiations, and avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials to be scheduled throughout the federal court system, Judge Martinotti has established a “bellwether” process, where a small group of representative claims will go through a case-specific discovery process and be prepared for early test trials, which are expected to begin in January 2023.
Throughout the pretrial proceedings, the Court will be asked to rule on a number of matters that will require background knowledge about science related to the bladder pain drug and eye issues experienced by plaintiffs throughout the litigation.
In a case management order (PDF) issued on May 20, Judge Martinotti announced that he intends to hold a “Science Day” on September 30.
While Judge Martinotti has asked the parties to discuss the logistics and coordination for the “Science Day”, such proceedings typically involve non-adversarial presentations by expert witnesses or parties, which are intended to educate the court about issues and concepts that will come up during the proceedings. The presentations are not part of the official record in the case, or subject to cross examination.
The information gleaned from the Science Day presentations may guide Judge Martinotti in any rulings or motions about evidence to be presented in the Elmiron bellwether trials, including decisions about what expert witness testimony may be presented to juries.
While the outcome of the early bellwether Elmiron trials being scheduled in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) will not be binding on other claims, the rulings will be closely watched by parties involved, and are expected to have a large impact on negotiations to reach Elmiron settlements for eye issues caused by the bladder drug.