Judge Robin L. Rosenberg, who is overseeing the Zantac multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida, outlined dates and procedures for moving ahead with bellwether trials. Rosenberg’s pretrial order, filed November 19, 2021, established that bellwether trials affecting more than 1,800 product liability cases that have been consolidated for discovery purposes will commence in the summer of 2023.
The Zantac MDL consolidates for pretrial discovery thousands of lawsuits filed by individuals who claim they took NDMA-contaminated Zantac and ranitidine and developed cancer as a result. NDMA is a probable human carcinogen. Plaintiffs are seeking compensation from the drug’s manufacturers.
Bellwether Pool Limited to Florida Cases
The MDL’s initial discovery pool will comprise only those plaintiffs who reside in the state of Florida, partly because of the state’s middle-of-the-road laws, which would facilitate determining settlement values that could play out in cases across the country.
The Florida plaintiffs bear similarity to those throughout the states—in terms of demographics, ages, cancer types, products used, and duration of use—making them viable representatives for bellwether trials. Parties also felt that Florida plaintiffs made sense for the discovery pool because the court has the power to subpoena witnesses who have important, case-related information for local plaintiffs, the pretrial order explains.
Cancers to be Included in the Zantac MDL
The order further discloses the types of cancers that the parties will litigate in the MDL, as follows:
- Colorectal and intestinal cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Gastric cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Lung cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
Cases involving breast cancer and kidney cancer will not be litigated as part of this MDL.
The plaintiffs’ leadership council are to submit expert reports on general causation by January 24, 2022.
The pretrial order states that as of early November 2021, more than 4,000 Florida Plaintiffs and Claimants had completed forms and entered into a Registry database their claims that their ingestion of ranitidine had caused them to develop one of the cancers to be litigated in the MDL. The number of Florida plaintiffs and claimants for each type of cancer to be litigated in the MDL are as follows:
- Bladder: 737
- Colorectal: 915
- Esophageal: 331
- Stomach/Intestinal: 388
- Liver: 271
- Lung: 311
- Pancreatic: 290
- Prostate: 1,443
Dates and Procedures Related to Zantac Bellwether Pool Selection and Eligibility
The court designated December 10, 2021, as the date on which the litigation parties would use the Microsoft Randomizer to randomly select eight percent of the bellwether pool for each cancer type for the Initial Discovery Pool. This percentage equates to a total of 25 plaintiffs and claimants for each type of cancer.
The Initial Discovery Pool’s process for serving signed authorizations and lists of medical providers commenced on December 15, 2021, and will continue until January 14, 2022. Plaintiffs in the pool will submit their bellwether supplements up to April 30, 2022. The parties will use the medical authorizations and bellwether supplements to vet the Initial Discovery Pool for compliance with the MDL’s eligibility criteria. By March 1, 2022, the parties will have agreed on the eligibility criteria, including under which circumstances a given case should not proceed in the bellwether selection process.
A list of plaintiffs whose claims do not meet the eligibility criteria will be submitted to the Court by August 1, 2022.
On May 21, 2023, the parties will advise the court of their nominations and rankings for four cases in the first Phase One cancer category to be tried as the first bellwether trial, as well as four cases in the second Phase One cancer category to be tried as the second bellwether trial.
On May 23, 2023, the Court will select the Plaintiff for the first Phase One and the second Phase One cancer category to be tried as a bellwether trial.Per the order, the first bellwether trial is set for July 17, 2023.