If your legal case is part of coordinated proceedings, such as a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) case, you may have heard about bellwether trials. The bellwether process involves a small group of cases that are selected from the pool to be a part of early trials called “bellwether” trials.  These trials occur when several plaintiffs file lawsuits against the same defendant, such as in mass tort litigation cases involving defective drugs and medical devices.

But what exactly are these trials, what do they mean, and will they have a positive impact on your case?

We’d love to explain more about bellwether trials and examine whether it’s a useful tool when it comes to your case.

What are Bellwether trials?

Selecting a small group to go to trial is the solution to having to try hundreds or thousands of similar cases.   As the name implies, these types of trials are sometimes also referred to as test cases.  They’re intended to try widely contested issues and are an increasing phenomenon in US legal proceedings. The purpose of the bellwether trial is to allow the parties and the court to evaluate the weaknesses and strengths of the cases as a whole and provide points of reference for the rest of the cases.  These selected cases are typically representative of all cases in the coordinated action.

Are Bellwether trials a helpful tool?

Bellwether trials are useful in several ways. The results of the trials shape the process for the remaining cases. The small group of cases selected for trials complete case-specific discovery which further determines their selection for one of the early trials. Bellwether trials help determine how juries will respond to the evidence presented by both parties. The outcome of the trials will be indicators of how individual cases and the litigation will progress into a settlement or resolve through litigation. 

These trials inform the court and the parties about the strengths and weaknesses of the cases within the coordinated proceedings. Although the outcome of the Bellwether cases is not legally binding, it does impact your individual case.

Bellwether trials act as an indicator for the other cases. The outcome of the test cases demonstrates how things are likely to go in your own case. The test cases allow us to see how the judge and jury perceive the case and help the legal team gauge how jurors react to evidence and arguments.

The advantage to your legal team is that the test cases give us information on how to best move your case forward. Sometimes the information that’s gathered thanks to the bellwether trials can lead to a settlement.

What are the benefits of bellwether trials?

There are benefits of bellwether trials for all parties involved.

  • The courts only try a sample of cases, not all of them, saving time and resources
  • The plaintiffs have an opportunity to present evidence and focus their claim in court
  • Legal fees are cut
  • Many cases are settled out of court
  • There may be less fact discovery required, such as depositions
  • Prevents inconsistencies in settlement and court rulings

Once a decision is made, the remaining cases can move forward.

There when it matters

It’s true that the bellwether trials set a precedent, but we must remember that they don’t dictate all future verdicts. The law is complex, and you likely have questions about your own individual circumstances.

If you or someone in your family has been affected by a defective drug or medical device you’ll understand that the aftermath can be devastating. You must have someone fighting for you who is knowledgeable, experienced, and determined. Laura Yaeger has expertise in mass tort litigation cases, particularly relating to defective drugs and medical devices. She has represented thousands of individuals who have been harmed by the conduct of others.

Yaeger Law stands up for what is right and will deliver justice and accountability. We listen to our clients and work tirelessly. So, if you’ve got questions about your case, reach out for a free consultation.