What is a Bellwether Trial?

What is a Bellwether Trial?

Test trials in multidistrict litigation (MDL) are known as bellwether trials. These are sample trials selected from the larger group of cases in an MDL. In mass torts, it is simply impossible to bring every claim to trial due to the number of cases. However, selected bellwether trials help both parties form an idea about the compensation victims should receive. These bellwether trials are carefully chosen to represent the massive grouping of similar claims. The results of the bellwether trials move the MDL closer to a global settlement.

Multidistrict Litigation Requires Bellwether Trials

In multidistrict litigation (MDL), federal cases that share a common issue are transferred to one court before one judge. An MDL conserves resources and produces consistent court rulings. Both parties save time and money. This process results in a faster and more cohesive resolution of cases. MDLs usually center around hazardous drugs or defective medical devices. 

Bellwether is a medieval term to describe a bell placed around the lead sheep in a flock. The farmer could monitor the flock’s progress through the bellwether. Therefore, a bellwether serves as an indicator. Typically, an MDL contains hundreds or thousands of cases. Trying each claim would take far too long, so the parties pick specific cases to reflect all the claims. Bellwether trials predict the likely outcome if the other cases went to trial. 

What Cases Are Selected?

Even in an MDL with thousands of pending cases, only a small segment will qualify as bellwether trials. Usually, less than ten cases will move forward as bellwether trials, but it depends on the size of the litigation. The judge will choose potential bellwether cases based on criteria set forth by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). The JPML is a special body in the U.S. court system that forms an MDL.

Once the judge creates a pool of various candidates, both parties may have a chance to review and select from the options. Attorneys from both sides can conduct fact discovery to understand each of the cases. In this process, attorneys will review the case evidence and question the plaintiff. From there, the lawyers will select trials they believe will boost their chance of winning. Typically, plaintiff and defendant lawyers have the opportunity to pick an equal number of bellwether trials. 

How Many Bellwether Trials Can You Expect?

The point of bellwether trials is to facilitate a global settlement. It is difficult to discern exactly how many bellwether trials will occur before the parties reach an agreement. There is no definitive answer as to many bellwether trials an MDL requires before parties decide on an amount to fairly compensate remaining claims. Bellwether trials depend on the number of cases in the MDL and the early results of the initial trials. Generally, the larger the MDL, the more bellwether trials a court holds. Additionally, the defendant’s eagerness to settle and the injuries or damages claimed in the cases factor into the bellwether trial process. 

Will My Case Be a Bellwether Trial?

Joining an MDL is sort of like buying a lottery ticket. Your case may or may not move forward as a bellwether trial. Yet, you stand just as good a chance as anyone else included in the MDL. There is no way to 100% guarantee your selection for a bellwether trial. However, actively working with your attorney can strengthen your chances. Fulfilling requests, answering questions, and helping with medical records will assist your attorney in your claim. 

Contact The Lake Law Firm for Help With Your Legal Questions 

Our friendly and helpful team is on standby if you have any additional questions concerning bellwether trials or your potential claim. We recognize that lawyer jargon can be difficult to grasp or confusing. Therefore, you should never hesitate to speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys. 

The Lake Law Firm was founded by Edward J. Lake, Esq., a personal injury lawyer for over 25 years. Our dedicated team of attorneys is committed to seeking justice on behalf of those who have suffered injury or death due to the negligence of others. Our experienced attorneys handle many different types of pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices, and other defective products. The lawyers in our firm have helped collect millions of dollars for their clients. The Lake Law Firm will advocate for you and your rights. Please contact us for a free confidential case evaluation at (888) 274-0139.