Yaz Settlement Talks to be Pushed Following Bellwether Trials, Judge Says

The judge presiding over every federal Yaz lawsuit and Yasmin lawsuit has declined to consolidate multiple cases during the early bellwether trials, but indicates that the Court plans to push for “meaningful” settlement negotiations after the initial trials are held, which will help gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence and testimony that may be similar to what would be presented in other cases in the litigation.

There are currently more than 6,350 lawsuits filed in federal district courts throughout the United States that have been centralized before Judge David R. Herndon in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

All of the cases involve similar allegations that Bayer failed to adequately warn about the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening side effects of Yaz and Yasmin birth control, such as a stroke, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or gallbladder disease.

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In October 2010, Judge Herndon implemented a process that calls for a handful of cases to be prepared for a series of three early trials, known as bellwether cases. The first trial, which is expected to begin early next year, will involve a pulmonary embolism from Yaz. The second trial will involve a gallbladder injury from Yaz and the third trial will involve a venous thromboembolism (VTE), such as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Plaintiffs’ attorneys recently asked Judge Herndon to consolidate several cases for the second and third trials, arguing that trying cases one plaintiff at a time would “commit this litigation to a lifespan of eternity.” Plaintiffs indicated that there has been no movement by Bayer towards a Yaz settlement agreement, and suggested that effeciences would be served by trying several cases at a time after the first bellwether trial.

In an order issued August 18, Judge Herndon rejected this request and indicated that the second and third bellwether trials will proceed as originally contemplated and shall be individual plaintiffs.

“The Court has no intention of presiding over anything into eternity, let alone this litigation, and the Court is presently working on a process that will engage the parties in settlement discussions following the bellwether trials in a meaningful way,” Judge Herndon wrote in the four-page order. “This comes as a surprise to the parties since the Court has not, until this momen, revealed this plan to the parties, but the Court assures all concerned that when the time is appropriate each party will be given input in the process. No party has yet excluded the possibility of engaging in meaningful settlement discusions, there have only been disagreements about when those efforts should begin.”

Yaz and Yasmin are birth control pills that contain a newer type of progestin, known as drospirenone, which has been linked to an increased risk of blood clots and other injuries. The Yaz and Yasmin litigation also involves cases filed over a newer version of the birth control pills, sold as Beyaz, as well as generic equivalents, such as Ocella and Gianvi.

Although the first trials are approaching, the number of lawsuits is expected to continue to grow as Yaz and Yasmin lawyers review and file additional cases in the coming months and years for women who have experienced health problems from the birth control pills. Early estimates suggested that more than 25,000 women may eventually file a Yaz birth control suit.

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