An analysis by Reuters about the recent success of drugmakers in bellwether trials, including Merck in Fosamax lawsuit proceedings, indicates that corporate defendants may have an advantage over plaintiffs in test cases.
Changes in Bellwether Trials Favor Defendants
In a mass tort, which can contain hundreds or thousands of similar complaints against a common defendant, it is typical for a judge to select several of these lawsuits to be tried before the others. So-called “bellwether trials” are expected to foreshadow trends in the mass tort litigation and could, for example, lead to some plaintiffs dropping their cases or to a settlement offer by the defendant.
According to plaintiff advocates, changes over the last decade in how bellwether cases are selected favor defendants, as they now have greater influence in choosing the first round of mass tort trials. Advocates also claim that bellwethers favor the defense because the trials can take years to complete, and protracted litigation is more easily funded by large corporations.
Merck Has Won Four of Five Fosamax Lawsuits
Merck & Co., the maker of Fosamax, is currently involved in two mass torts. One focuses on claims that its popular bone-strengthening drug causes osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), while the other is related to the alleged tendency of Fosamax to cause femur fractures.
In the older Fosamax ONJ mass tort, five bellwether cases have already been tried, with Merck claiming victory in four of them. One attorney representing plaintiffs in the ONJ Fosamax lawsuits claims that Merck’s success has been, in part, due to a judge’s order that only cases filed before January 2005 (after which Fosamax labels were updated to warn of ONJ risks) be eligible as bellwether trials. “I’ve been trying these cases with one arm tied behind my back and another holding a bag of concrete,” said the attorney.
Contact RLG for a Complimentary Fosamax Lawsuit Review
Despite its early success in the ONJ mass tort, Merck still faces thousands of related lawsuits, including two additional bellwethers in February and May 2012.
On a separate note, trial dates for the Fosamax femur fracture mass tort have yet to be chosen yet, as claims are still being filed across the country. The Rottenstein Law Group is offering free case reviews for anyone who believes that Fosamax caused their thigh bone break. To learn more, have a look at our Fosamax Information Graphic, and to speak with a lawyer, complete this contact form. A member of RLG will contact you soon.