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What to Expect in Zantac Cancer Lawsuits for 2021 and Beyond

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While the court prepares for Bellwether trials, potential Zantac plaintiffs should assemble information

West Palm Beach, FLAs 2020 draws to a close, the toll of death and injury from Zantac-related cancers continues to rise, as do the number of Zantac cancer lawsuits. Meanwhile, In Re: Zantac (Ranitidine) Products Liability Litigation, the multidistrict litigation into which many of the individual lawsuits have been consolidated, grinds on without much apparent news.

While it is true that people who took Zantac and developed cancer may not see trials begin before late 2021 or early 2022, more is happening than meets the eye. If an image would help, think of the duck. While the bird glides serenely on the water, the feet below the surface are paddling like crazy. Zantac plaintiffs might do well to prepare for settlement offers from the drug manufacturers, as well as the possibility of trial.

Why are there so many Zantac cancer lawsuits?


In a nutshell, the answer is because so many people took Zantac for so long. Glaxo Holdings Ltd, now a part of GlaxoSmithKline PLC, first received F.D.A. approval for Zantac in 1983. Over-the-counter versions are often used to treat heartburn. Prescription-strength Zantac is used to treat very severe heartburn and more serious conditions such as stomach or intestinal ulcers. In 2018 Zantac was among the top 10 antacid brands in the U.S.

Recent studies, however, link N–Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) contamination in Zantac to various forms of cancer, including: 
  • Liver cancer;
  • Stomach cancer;
  • Bladder cancer;
  • Kidney cancer;
  • Esophageal cancer;
  • Intestinal cancer;
  • Colorectal cancer; and
  • Cancers of the male and female reproductive systems.
Some of these cancers have long latency periods, and until the Zantac recalls began in 2019, many doctors did not know to look for a link to Zantac use.

One hundred and forty lawsuits had been filed in federal court as of March 2020. As of Oct. 15, 2020, there were 539 Zantac cancer lawsuits included in the Florida MDL. So many people have taken Zantac over the last 27 years, it is anyone’s guess how many more lawsuits are likely to be filed. The number will be big, without a doubt.

How much, for what, and when?


By 2022, the bellwether trials will have offered some insight into the likely size of jury awards for cases that go to trial. That leaves open the question of what Glaxo and other manufacturers are likely to offer by way of settlement.

This is guess work, of course, but many lawyers look to two recent mass tort cases for guidelines. The first is the litigation surrounding Valsartan, which is similar because it involved NMDA contamination. The second involves lawsuits over Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup  because the product was widely used over a long period of time and is now linked to various forms of cancer.

In very broad terms, the settlement value of any mass tort cases is likely to be less than the trial value of the case. On the other hand, a settlement may be easier and quicker for someone with immediate needs. This is a judgment call that each plaintiff will need to make on the basis of good, objective advice.

In previous cases, the settlement offers were divided into classes, according to the kind of injury. With the Zantac cancer lawsuits, this may involve the type of cancer. If the Zantac lawsuits are ultimately resolved through a global settlement, the cases will be ranked into settlement groups based on the severity of the injuries and strength of the claim. Some speculate that cases in the top tier could be worth roughly $500,000; those in the second may settle in the $250,000 range; and the lowest tier cases may be worth $100,000 or less. In such a settlement, all plaintiffs in the same tier would receive the same amount.

What potential Zantac plaintiffs need to do now


Moving toward settlement negotiations, Judge Robin Rosenberg has issued orders requiring a census of all Zantac claims. These are designed to provide an accurate picture of how many individual cases are likely to be included in the MDL. 

With the assistance of an attorney, potential Zantac cancer plaintiffs should begin to assemble the following information and supporting documentation:
  • The dates during which they took Zantac;
  • Whether it was an over-the-counter or prescription product;
  • Which specific product was used (syrup, tablets, capsules, flavoring, etc.);
  • Nature of cancer and other injuries;
  • Date of diagnosis;
  • Name and address of doctor;
  • Name and address of pharmacy, or other place purchased;
  • Date of death (for wrongful death claims) and death certificate describing cause;
  • Any other economic losses, including wage loss and the cost of medical monitoring; and
  • Any claims to be made by a spouse or other family member;
This is obviously a big job that will take some time to accomplish, so patients who have been injured by Zantac should begin as soon as possible.

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