Lawyers involved in the federal Lipitor lawsuits are scheduled to meet tomorrow with the judge presiding over the litigation, as discovery and other preparations continue for a series of test trials scheduled for later this year involving claims that Pfizer failed to warn about the risk of diabetes.
Pfizer currently faces more than 2,000 product liability lawsuits filed by women throughout the U.S., which all involve nearly identical allegations that plaintiffs developed type 2 diabetes from side effects of Lipitor.
In the federal court system, the cases are centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in the District of South Carolina as part of an MDL, or Multidistricti Litigation, where a status conference will be held on April 23 to discuss the latest developments in the lawsuits.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the MDL, a small group of cases are being prepared for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout a number of Lipitor diabetes cases.
The first Lipitor bellwether case is scheduled for trial to begin on November 4, involving a complaint filed by Wilma Daniels, who indicates that she was very healthy before she started using the medication as a preventative measure to lower her cholesterol levels and decrease her risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Following use of Lipitor for several years, Daniels indicates that she was diagnosed with diabetes, which now causes her to suffer from multiple health complications.
A second trial is expected to begin later this year or in early 2016, involving a lawsuit filed by Juanita Hempstead.
According to a joint status report (PDF) filed by the parties on April 16, discovery is still proceeding in the two cases, with Pfizer continuing to produce documents relevant to the claims, and both sides conducting depositions of non-party fact witnesses. Expert reports have been exchanged by the parties on general causation and liability, with depositions scheduled in the coming weeks.
While the outcome of these test trials will not be binding in other cases, they may influence eventual Lipitor settlement negotiations to avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials to be scheduled nationwide.