Lipitor Case for Woman Diagnosed with Diabetes Picked For First Bellwether Trial

During a meeting last week in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) established for all Lipitor diabetes cases pending throughout the federal court system, a lawsuit filed by a Colorado woman was randomly selected by the Court to serve as the first in a series of bellwether trials.

According to a text order issued on January 30, a claim filed by Wilma Daniels will be the first bellwether cases in the country to go before a jury involving allegations that side effects of Lipitor caused a woman to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Daniels originally filed her complaint (PDF) last year in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, before it was transferred to the federal Lipitor MDL for coordinated pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in the District of South Carolina.

The lawsuit is one of more than 1,600 Lipitor diabetes cases currently pending before Judge Gergel, which all involve similar allegations that Pfizer failed to adequately warn about the link between Lipitor and diabetes, claiming that the drug maker withheld information about the importance of women monitoring blood glucose levels while taking the blockbuster cholesterol drug.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the federal Lipitor MDL, Judge Gergel previously established a “bellwether” process, where each side selected a small group of Lipitor cases to be prepared for early trial dates, which are expected to begin later this year.

Judge Gergel convened the parties on Friday to randomly select from four cases identified by the parties, to determine the order for the bellwether trials. A card designating each of the cases was placed in the Court’s “wheel” on January 30, and the Courtroom deputy randomly selected Daniels as the first to go to before a jury.

Daniels claims that prior to being prescribed Lipitor, she was very healthy and that she took the medication as a preventative measure to lower her levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in order to decrease her risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, the complaint alleges that Lipitor side effects caused her to become diabetic, which has actually left her with an increased risk of heart disease and other health complications.

The case was originally selected for the bellwether program by Pfizer. The second bellwether trial will be a case selected by the plaintiffs, which is expected to be a lawsuit filed by Juanita Hempstead.

While the outcomes of these bellwether trial dates are not binding on other Lipitor diabetes cases, they will be closely watched by those involved in the litigation, as they may help gauge how juries will respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. The process may also facilitate a potential Lipitor settlement agreement, which would avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials to be scheduled.

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