What Is a Bellwether Trial in a Mass Tort Case?

In mass tort cases, bellwether trials have a crucial role in showing the strengths and weaknesses of the plaintiff’s future lawsuits. But what exactly are these trials, and who decides which cases are picked? Today, the mass tort lawyers at Rueb Stoller Daniel will answer the most common questions concerning these legal actions.

As a potential plaintiff, you need to know these facts, because your case may be picked as a bellwether trial, and you must know what it means.

What Is a Bellwether Trial?

Mass tort cases often involve thousands of plaintiffs with similar cases against the same defendant. It would be an enormous effort to try them separately, putting a lot of pressure on the justice system. This is why these actions are consolidated into a multi-district litigation (MDL) and a few cases will be selected to be tried before a federal court.

These sample cases represent the bellwether trials. They will be followed closely both by the mass tort lawyers representing the plaintiffs and by the legal team representing the defendants. The reason for this is that the outcome of these trials will dictate the next decision for the other pending cases.

Who Picks the Cases and What Are the Selection Criteria?

Cases selected for bellwether trials must be selected according to the rules and procedures of the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation. Among the criteria, we note situations when the plaintiff has already passed away or is in imminent danger of death and the large value of damages.

When it comes to who makes the selections, there are several situations:

  • The MDL judge
  • The mass tort and the defense lawyers
  • The lawyers and the judge
  • Randomly.

Most courts prefer to let the judge and the lawyers make the selection. For example, in the 3M earplugs mass tort case, the bellwether trial included three cases.

  • One case was selected by the judge.
  • One case was chosen by the defendant’s lawyers.
  • One case was chosen by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

The bellwether trial can influence the outcome of other cases in mass tort litigation

The Benefits of Bellwether Trials

Now, apart from relieving pressure from the court system, is there any other benefit of the system of bellwether trials in mass tort cases? The answer is yes. Here are just a few reasons why mass tort lawyers believe this is a good solution.

  • The plaintiffs’ lawyers get a chance to discover the line of defense adopted by the defendant’s legal team.
  • The aggregate legal costs of the entire mass tort case are significantly reduced.
  • The plaintiffs may obtain their compensation in a shorter time and with less stress and effort.
  • Families of deceased plaintiffs get a degree of closure from the court decision.

The Drawbacks of the Bellwether Trial System

So far, bellwether trials appear to be effective in determining the outcome of a mass tort case. However, they also have several weak points.

  • Since they have such a major impact on the case, the process of selecting the cases is contentious and may take some time until an agreement is reached.
  • Specific circumstances in the bellwether trial cases may harm the other pending cases.
  • The trials take place in a single court, which may be far away from where many plaintiffs live. Some plaintiffs will not have their day in court.
  • The outcome of the bellwether trial may lead some plaintiffs to accept settlements that do not represent fair compensation.

Talk to Skilled Mass Tort Lawyers About Your Case!

Navigating the complex mass tort legal process is extremely complicated. You may wonder if you are eligible to join one of these lawsuits.

The best option is to contact Rueb Stoller Daniel. As a new client, you benefit from a free case review, so call us today at 1-866-CALL-RSD!