Drugmakers win bellwether suits, aided by case selection

No doubt about it: Drugmakers have been coming out on top in product liability cases. As Reuters reports, AstraZeneca, Merck and Pfizer have won some key bellwether cases, and when that happens, other plaintiffs are more likely to settle or back down.

These successes may have as much to say about legal ins and outs as they do about the cases themselves, experts tell the news service. In the past, plaintiffs had the advantage in choosing which cases would go to trial first. More recently, judges have asked both sides for recommendations and picked a few of their own, then tried the cases in rotation.

Plaintiffs' lawyers told Reuters that corporate defendants have unfair advantages these days, with deeper pockets to pay for long-and-drawn-out litigation. One legal expert advocates random sampling to choose bellwether cases.

At least one corporate lawyer acknowledged that case selection may have helped defendants enjoy more success than plaintiffs lately, but said that the process is more equitable these days. "Judges are more likely to say, 'If we are going to have a series of bellwether cases, we want them to be representative instead of simply plaintiff-friendly,'" Merck attorney Philip Beck told the news service.

- read the Reuters story

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