The first bellewether trial in the Zoloft Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is currently scheduled to begin on November 3, 2014. The MDL is a consolidation of over 400 lawsuits against Pfizer, the makers of Zoloft, for birth defects suffered by children whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy. A bellewether trial helps both sides see how juries will react to evidence that will be heard in most of the 400 cases. This initial jury verdict may assist settlement discussions between Plaintiffs and Pfizer, possibly preventing hundreds more individual trials.
A Pre-Trial order has been entered to set up the process of how the bellewether cases are going to be chosen. An initial discovery pool of 25 cases was a set, 13 chosen by Pfizer and 12 by a group of Plaintiff attorneys. This aids the parties in reducing the number of cases that need be prepared for trial. Out of these 25 cases, five to six cases need to be ready by the November 2014 trial date. The next step is for Pfizer and Plaintiffs to strike a maximum of two cases each prior to May 5, 2014. Should Plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss a case, it will count as one of their strikes. To make it fair, if Plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss more than two cases, thus exercising more strikes, Pfizer will be permitted the same number of strikes.
After each side completes their strikes, the parties have until May 14, 2014 to choose three cases for the Trial Pool. Discovery on these cases will continue until August 15, 2014. Pfizer and Plaintiffs will then provide a summary of each case to the trial judge, Hon. Cynthia Rufe. She will then select the cases for the trial dates. Each side will be given 25 hours to present its case at trial, which should last about three weeks. It is anticipated that jury deliberations on the bellewether trials will start November 24, 2014.