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What is a Bellwether Trial?

What is a Bellwether Trial?

Posted on Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Bellwether trials are an important part of all mass tort litigations with large numbers of plaintiffs. But what does that mean? What are bellwether trials and how do they affect your case?

Differences between Mass Torts and Class Action Lawsuits

Mass torts differ from class action lawsuits in several ways. The most important difference is that mass torts are individual lawsuits with individual plaintiffs, whereas plaintiffs are grouped into a single lawsuit in a class action claim. 

If a judge or jury finds in favor of plaintiffs in a mass tort, or if a settlement is reached, the amount of compensation each plaintiff receives is based on the circumstances of their individual claim. In a class action lawsuit, compensation is divided equally among plaintiffs.

That’s because, in a class action lawsuit, most plaintiffs sustained the same injuries in a similar fashion. In a mass tort lawsuit, however, the types and degrees of injury can vary significantly from one plaintiff to the next.

What is a Bellwether Trial and Why is It Important?

OnderLaw represents clients in some of the largest mass tort cases taking place in the United States today. Our attorneys are fighting for the rights — and sometimes lives — of people in cases that involve 3M Earplugs, Johnson & Johnson Talc, Bayer-Monsanto Roundup, and numerous dangerous drugs and defective medical devices. In all of these cases, bellwether trials are an important part of the process. 

Many mass torts involve tens of thousands of plaintiffs. If each case went to trial individually, the process would literally take hundreds of years. Of course, that would not be practical, and such a timeline would deny justice to those who deserve it.

The judicial system designed bellwether trials to “test the waters,” so to speak, to determine how courts and juries will decide cases with similar injuries and facts. 

For example, multiple bellwether trials have now been held in talc-related cancer cases against Johnson & Johnson. Each has involved plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with very specific types of cancers or who have used talc in specific ways prior to their cancer diagnosis. 

Evidence in these cases has been presented to courts and to juries, and the decisions made in them are usually a good indicator of how juries will likely rule in other cases with similar facts. Often these cases work out in our favor, but occasionally bellwether cases show a weakness in the evidence or in testimony that must be overcome before cases with similar facts can move forward.

Most often, if bellwether trials go well for plaintiffs, they set the stage for settlements. When corporations and their shareholders recognize that their company will likely lose more cases in court, and consider the damage these cases do to their reputation and branding, they are often encouraged and pressured to settle with all of the plaintiffs in mass tort cases. 

Of course, there is no guarantee that the defendants will settle, and plaintiffs’ attorneys have no way of knowing what amount of compensation, if any, each client will receive. 

Who Chooses which Bellwether Trials will Go to Court?

The process of choosing bellwether trials is often complicated. After painstakingly sifting through facts from all of the cases, attorneys for both the plaintiffs and defendants submit potential bellwether cases to the court. 

Ultimately, the court decides which cases will go to trial.

Does it Matter what Attorney You Choose for Mass Tort Litigation?

When bellwether trials go well for plaintiffs, corporations tend to feel significant pressure to settle. What they bring to the table in settlement talks may or may not be in good faith.

There have been many times when defendants’ attorneys present settlement offers that we at OnderLaw feel do not provide fair compensation to our clients. Sometimes we differ with other attorneys who are willing to accept the offered settlement, and there have been times when we have continued to fight on behalf of our clients while other attorneys agree to settle.

We will never speak poorly about other attorneys. We do stand by the fact that we don’t quit fighting until we feel we’ve won fair and just compensation for our clients. 

At OnderLaw, we believe we are doing more than simply winning lawsuits. We are creating change, and we are bringing justice to those who have been harmed by companies that put profits over people. 

Because we have been willing to fight the good fight, corporations that make billions of dollars in profits have been hit hard enough in court to change the way they do business. They’ve been forced to make responsible decisions to protect consumers, and they’ve been held accountable to the public for what they’ve done.

When you’ve been injured or when a loved one has died due to corporate greed and unsafe products and drugs, who you choose to represent you is your decision. OnderLaw has proven time and again that we will fight for justice, and that we represent our clients with compassion, skill, and integrity.

If you have been injured by a defective product or dangerous drug, or if someone else is responsible for causing injury or death to someone you love, contact OnderLaw at 314-963-9000, or click here for a free, no-obligation consultation

We don’t get paid unless you win your case. We will fight for you.


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