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With nearly 10,000 Taxotere lawsuits pending in the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that Sanofi-Aventis failed to warn women and doctors about the hair loss risk associated with the controversial breast cancer drug, a second group of “bellwether” cases are being nominated for a series of early trial dates, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed in district courts nationwide, the federal litigation is centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
Plaintiffs all claim that the chemotherapy drug is no more effective than other treatment options, yet carries an increased risk of leaving women with permanent baldness or hair problems. Although Sanofi-Aventis allegedly knew or should have known about these problems, the lawsuits claim that the drug maker promoted Taxotere by making false and misleading statements, which suggested hair would regrow after treatments were complete.
During a status conference scheduled for today, the parties are expected to update the Court on the progress of preparing for a series of five bellwether trials, which are expected to begin in May 2019, and continue throughout the next two years.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of Antoinette Durden has been selected for the first bellwether trial, with two alternate cases involving women residing in Louisiana set to go forward if Durden’s case resolves or is dismissed.
On January 4, 2019, the parties are expected to nominate primary and alternate plaintiffs for a second trial, selecting cases from a small pool of claims that have gone through case-specific discovery in preparation for these early trial dates.
According to a recent case management order (PDF) issued by the Court, eighteen additional claims were to be nominated earlier this month for inclusion in a pool for the third, fourth and fifth trials, with the an additional 12 cases added to the pool of plaintiffs by May 1, 2019, which will be eligible for inclusion in the fourth and fifth trial dates.
Half of the additional cases in each trial pool will be selected by plaintiffs, with the other half selected by the drug maker, as part of a process designed to identify representative claims. While the outcome of these early trial dates will not be binding on other plaintiffs who have suffered hair loss problems from Taxotere, they will be closely watched and may influence eventual settlement negotiations.