The first bellwether trials were set to take place this January 9, but Dr. Malik says that they were pushed before the New Year.
LawyersandSettlements: Why were the Yasmin and Yaz trials pushed forward?
Dr. Malik: Bayer's attorneys [Bayer is the manufacturer of Yasmin and Yaz] essentially begged the judge to move the case to mediation. Typically what happens next is that the bellwether trials are abated, pending the mediation outcome.
LawyersandSettlements: What does this move mean for Yasmin and Yaz plaintiffs?
Dr. Malik: It shows that Bayer is blinking—the giant pharmaceutical company knows they have to pay up to settle these cases. This move is good news for plaintiffs because, up until now, Bayer denied any liability. By going to mediation, the company has demonstrated that—potentially—they can be on the hook for billions of dollars in settlements, and hopefully a successful mediation of this case will lead to a global settlement of all lawsuits.
LawyersandSettlements: Will litigation take even longer now?
Dr. Malik: I don't think so. There is light at the end of the tunnel—this mediation is the 'beginning of the end' and hopefully 2012 will provide some relief to the victims.
LawyersandSettlements: Can a Yasmin or Yaz victim still file a claim?
Dr. Malik: The window is now beginning to close if the mediation is successful, but there is still time to file a claim. I would say they have this year—2012—to file and stake their claim. From our perspective, our team has in excess of several hundred cases and we are filing more and getting many more inquiries. In fact, just before Christmas, we filed another 16 cases.
LawyersandSettlements: What about the statute of limitations?
Dr. Malik: The potential plaintiffs need to always keep in mind that time is of the essence and eventually there will be cut-offs. I advise anyone who has been injured by the drospirenone-containing oral contraceptives to file a claim sooner than later.
LawyersandSettlements: What is going to happen now with the bellwether trials?
Dr. Malik: If the mediation is successful and if it paves the way to a global settlement, then the gallbladder, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE) and stroke cases will get a certain dollar amount per victim, which is called a settlement matrix.
LawyersandSettlements: How will the matrix be divided?
READ MORE YASMIN BIRTH CONTROL LEGAL NEWS
Last November, Dr Malik said that Bayer is strongly denying any problems and the pharma company will vigorously defend themselves, but he is "confident that justice will prevail." It would seem likely that his confidence in the judicial system is growing with this new turn of events.
In December 2011, the FDA advisory panel voted 21-5 that the Yasmin and Yaz birth control label should be updated to provide clearer risks for blood clots, just falling short of a black box warning. Dr. Malik will talk more about the advisory panel's decision next week…