Product Liability Update: Thousands of cases pertaining to the defective mesh have been combined and are being collectively adjudicated in the federal district court for the Southern District of West Virginia, a process referred to as Multi-District Litigation (MDL). On July 1, the Honorable Joseph R. Goodwin issued an order scheduling an initial "bellweather" trial for December 3, 2013.
The presiding judges in a MDL typically utilize bellweather trials to evaluate the collective merits of a group of similar cases to provide the parties with a reasonable expectation for a verdict and damages. This encourages settlement of the non-bellweather cases because the parties have more information about the probable results of proceeding to trial. By being able to better predict an outcome, it is much more likely that a mutually beneficial settlement agreement can be reached, thus avoiding the need for a lengthy and expensive trial.
A case is typically chosen to be a bellweather case because it has facts that are representative of a large number of other MDL cases, and therefore will be the most useful in predicting outcomes. The results of the upcoming transvaginal mesh bellweather cases will likely set the tone for future settlement negotiations between the mesh manufacturers and plaintiffs who have been injured.