A bellwether trial is one of the first trials conducted in a mass tort action. When a large number of lawsuits have been filed by individuals against the manufacturer of a certain product, those individual cases can form a mass tort action. The mass tort action is then consolidated in one court under one judge as multidistrict litigation (“MDL”). Judge Eldon Fallon of Eastern Louisiana presides over the Xarelto MDL, which includes more than 2,800 cases.
A judge will typically use bellwether trials to encourage a settlement. The judge and the attorneys for both sides will usually select a few cases that are representative of the group as a whole. These bellwether cases will then be prepared and tried before a jury in order to give all parties an indication of what the likely outcome would be if all cases were tried.
The jury verdicts in bellwether trials can give the judge and both sides enough information to determine if the mass tort action should be settled and, if so, what a fair settlement amount may be for each plaintiff.
The Xarelto lawsuits allege that the drug’s manufacturers — Bayer Healthcare and Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals — failed to warn patients about dangerous side effects associated with Xarelto, an anticoagulant used to treat atrial fibrillation. Those side effects can include gastrointestinal bleeding, brain hemorrhages and stroke.
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