Essentially this means that one defense firm is handling all settlements, which comprises about 25,000 cases filed between the federal MDL in the southern district of Illinois, the state mass tort court in California, the state mass tort court in Philadelphia and the state mass tort court in New Jersey.
Malik says that US District Judge David Herndon in Illinois appointed an independent mediator, which means that the bellwether trials, which were scheduled for January 2012, are put on hold. Judge Herndon ordered Bayer and plaintiffs' attorneys to meet with mediator Stephen Saltzburg, a George Washington University law professor, and discuss the possibility of "settlements in this litigation."
"The judge ordered both sides to sit down with Saltzburg 'without delay' (his exact words) and he has filed an order postponing the first bellwether trial," says Malik. Of course, if Bayer settles the Yasmin and Yaz cases, there will be no need for bellwether trials. Just two weeks before the first trial was scheduled (January 9), defendants asked the judge if they could go to mediation. Malik says that the judge has now postponed the bellwether trials until April.
"So they will have until March to mediate, and if they are making progress and moving toward a settlement, we are confident that Bayer can settle," Malik explains. "If mediation breaks down and they are not getting any headway, for example if the defense is dragging or there is not good faith attempts at settlement between the parties, they will report to the judge that the parties are too far apart. Then they will ask the parties to get ready for trial."
Malik adds that, if mediation does break down this month, both parties will have the entire month of March to get ready for an April trial.
Malik predicts that the process is going to be "slow and painstaking." Saltzburg has mediated some meetings between law firms and defendants, but so far, no major breakthroughs or major settlements have been announced.
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Currently, Bayer is only interested in settling the deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism cases. The company is not considering gallbladder settlements, which make up about 75 percent of all Yasmin and Yaz cases—at this time.
"Those attorneys with gallbladder cases may have to force Bayer's hand by taking these cases to trial," Malik says, "but at this point, it is too early to tell."
Dr. Malik will update LawyersandSettlements with Yasmin and Yaz litigation next month—stay tuned.