Zantac Judge Issues Order for Bellwether Trials

US District Judge Robin Rosenberg has issued an order determining how the Zantac bellwether cases will proceed.  Since the MDL (multidistrict litigation) is in Florida, Florida cases will be heard first. 

The bellwether cases are a sample that gives everyone involved a sense of what the future holds. It indicates trends in litigation and can help plaintiffs and defendants determine how they want to proceed.

Bellwether trials include a smaller subset from a large group of plaintiffs. Members of the subset are chosen because their legal issues are a good representation of the group as a whole. The initial trials serve as a reference point and sets a precedent for future litigation. 

Bellwether cases also increase the odds cases will settle out of court. They can serve as a sort of wakeup call or dose of reality for plaintiffs and defendants because they demonstrate how things are likely to play out. This increases the chance of an out-of-court settlement, alleviating some of the burden on the court system and ensuring a matter is resolved as quickly as possible.

The verdict in a bellwether trial is non-binding for everyone except those directly involved in those cases. This means bellwethers are intended to be an indication of how future trials will play out, but it does not dictate future verdicts.

For instance, if a bellwether trial results in a large verdict of $100 million in favor of the plaintiffs, that’s the binding outcome for that trial, but it does not mean all future verdicts must result in a $100 million favorable verdict for plaintiffs. The bellwether verdict does provide information both sides can use to strategize. Bellwether trials set a precedent, but are not directly tied to future trial proceedings.

In the Zantac MDL, the bellwether cases will focus on the following cancers attributed to the consumption of Zantac:  bladder
cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, gastric (stomach/intestinal) cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer.

The cases will focus initially on these forms of cancer but the list may expand in the future.  It is estimated that 100,000 people who took Zantac have contracted some form of cancer. 

A 2019 USA Today report said that “Zantac was prescribed more than 15 million times a year with little worry about the safety of the medication, available for decades.” Testing of over-the-counter alternatives to Zantac, including Pepcid, Tagamet, Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec found no NDMA, USA Today added.

Exposure to NDMA has been associated with several types of cancers. The FDA was first alerted to the risk of NDMA contamination in Zantac by Valisure, an independent online pharmacy that also conducts laboratory testing of pharmaceuticals. Valisure told the FDA that medical studies dating back to the early 1980s demonstrated an association between ranitidine and cancer.