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Lipitor Bellwether Trial Date in MDL Pushed Back to January 2016

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Lipitor diabetes lawsuits brought by women throughout the U.S., has delayed the start of the first bellwether trial until early next year.

A Lipitor bellwether trial involving a claim filed by Wilma Daniels was scheduled to go before a jury on November 4, serving as the first test case out of several thousand lawsuits brought over the risk of diabetes associated from Lipitor.

In a docket entry posted this week, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel announced that the start of the case has been delayed until January 13, due to the Court’s criminal caseload.

“As a result of the recent [developments surrounding] the Court’s criminal roster for the November-December trial term, it was learned that four criminal cases with estimated trial days of four to five weeks are ripe and ready for trial,” according to the docket entry. “Under the Speedy Trial Act, criminal cases take precedence and congestion of the Court’s docket is not a sufficient basis to continue a pending criminal case. Under these circumstances, the Court has made the difficult decision to continue the first bellwether trial to the next trial term.”

Pfizer currently faces about 2,500 product liability lawsuits throughout the entire federal court system that allege the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk of diabetes from Lipitor. The cases are consolidated for pretrial proceedings before Judge Gergel in the District of South Carolina, as part of a federal MDL or multidistrict litigation.

All of the complaints involve similar claims that women developed type 2 diabetes after using Lipitor, alleging that Pfizer knew or should have known about the link between Lipitor and diabetes for years, yet withheld information from consumers and the medical community while building sales for their blockbuster cholesterol treatment.

As part of the MDL proceedings, a small group of cases have been prepared for early trial dates. Known as “bellwether” trials, these cases are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the Lipitor diabetes litigation .

The first trial is set to involve a claim filed by 67 year-old Wilma Daniels, who alleges that she developed type 2 diabetes after she began using Lipitor in 1997.

Daniels maintains that she previously had a healthy weight and diet, and began using Lipitor as a preventative measure to reduce her cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, instead, she has been left with diabetes, which requires adherence to a special diet, regular monitoring of blood glucose levels and places her at increased risk of several serious health problems.

While the outcome of the Daniel’s trial is not binding on any other Lipitor cases, it will be closely watched by lawyers involved in the litigation, as it may influence eventual negotiations to reach Lipitor settlements with Pfizer.

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