Judge to Select Two Lipitor Lawsuits for First Bellwether Trials in MDL

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Lipitor diabetes lawsuits will randomly select two bellwether cases later this month, which will be the first and second trials set to begin in the federal court system later this year.

There are currently more than 2,000 product liability lawsuits pending throughout the United States against Pfizer, which all involve similar claims that women developed diabetes from side effects of Lipitor, the popular and widely used cholesterol drug.

All of the complaints present allegations that Pfizer failed to adequately warn about the link between Lipitor and diabetes, suggesting that the drug maker placed their desire for profits before consumer safety by withholding information about the importance of monitoring for blood glucose changes during use of the blockbuster cholesterol drug.

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In the federal court system, case filed in various U.S. District Courts nationwide have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in the District of South Carolina as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the federal Lipitor MDL, Judge Gergel has established a “bellwether” process, where a small group of Lipitor diabetes cases are being prepared for early trial dates, which are set to begin in October 2015.

Out of an initial pool of cases selected last year, which have gone through case-specific discovery and depositions, there are eight remaining cases eligible for the first federal bellwether trials, which have have each been selected by one of the sides.

According to a text order issued on January 22, Judge Gergel indicates that the Court will randomly select the first two bellwether cases on January 30, at 10:00 a.m. The eight remaining cases will be placed “in the Court’s wheel”, according to the order, and the Courtroom Deputy will select the first case for trial. The Courtroom Deputy will then continue to select cases at random from the wheel until a case is selected that was originally nominated by the other party. Therefore, the first and second cases to go before federal juries will involve one case originally chosen by each side.

While the outcomes of these early trial dates are not binding on other cases, they will be closely watched by Lipitor injury lawyers 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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