The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Yaz lawsuits and Yasmin lawsuits has identified 33 cases that will be prepared for trials to begin by the middle of next year, involving claims for injuries that the manufacturer of the popular birth control pills has refused to settle.
Since 2009, all product liability lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system involving side effects of Yaz, Yasmin or other related birth control pills have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge David R. Herndon in the Southern District of Illinois, as part of an MDL or Multidistrict Litigation.
At one time, the litigation included around 12,000 cases filed on behalf of women who suffered various different injuries. However, Bayer has reached Yasmin and Yaz settlements to resolve the majority of all cases involving gallbladder problems and venous clot injuries, such as a deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
There are currently at least 5,000 cases remaining the MDL, many of which involve injuries that Bayer has so far refused to settle, such as patent foramen ovale (“PFO”) cases and arterial thrombotic event (“ATE”) cases.
In a trial selection order (PDF) issued on December 5, U.S. District Judge David R. Herndon indicated that a group of 33 cases will be prepared for early “bellwether trials”, with indication that the first trials could begin by May 15, 2015.
“Preparing thirty-three different cases for trial will assist counsel in developing an intimate understanding of this litigation, like no other time prior hereto,” Judge Herndon wrote. “Hopefully, as the parties and the lawyers who are individually responsible for the each part become familiar with the particulars of their cases, they will find common ground where none existed before.”
Since Bayer has not agreed to allow the cases filed in various different U.S. District Courts to go to trial before Judge Herndon in the MDL, most of the cases will be remanded back to the appropriate forum where they would have been filed in the absence of an MDL for individual trials.
Judge Herndon has indicated that at least two of the bellwether claims selected were properly filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, where the MDL is based. Those claims have been identified as a top priority and it appears likely they will be scheduled for the first trial dates.
While the outcomes of bellwether trials will not be binding on other claims, they are designed to help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their arguments and how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation.