Bellwether Trials: What You Need to Know

The word “bellwether” refers to something that indicates or predicts trends or tendencies or is otherwise at the lead or forefront.

Bellwether trials are individual lawsuits hand-picked to be heard first, ahead of a “pack” of similar lawsuits grouped together in what’s known as multidistrict litigation. MDLs consolidate related cases before one federal judge in order to reduce costs and promote efficiency in legal proceedings.

However, no judge can hear hundreds or thousands of cases at once. In order to test the strength of the lawsuits, a handful of bellwether trials will be held. The number of bellwether trials is up to the judge. In a very complex MDL, more bellwether trials may be scheduled than in a more straightforward situation. Cases selected for bellwether trials are often the strongest and most fully developed.

During a bellwether trial, both sides see how the judge interprets applicable laws, who the jury sides with, and the kind of compensation juries award. While the results of any given bellwether are not binding for the remaining lawsuits, they are a good indicator — a “bellwether” — of how things are trending.

Most MDLs end in settlement simply because of the logistical challenges of hearing hundreds or thousands of cases individually. Bellwether trials can set the tone for settlement negotiations, making them a good barometer of how much negotiating power each side may have.

Some of the most notable bellwether trials in recent years have been those alleging that Roundup (glyphosate), an herbicide made by Bayer subsidiary Monsanto, causes cancer. In the first two bellwether trials, juries awarded $289 million to school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson and $80 million to Edwin Hardeman.

In February, Bayer reached a $2 billion agreement to settle future legal claims over Roundup, Reuters reported. In April 2020 Bayer allegedly backed out of a $10 billion settlement with law firms representing more than 45,000 plaintiffs. Two months later Bayer reached a $6.9 billion settlement resolving most of the more than 100,000 U.S. lawsuits pending at the time.

By James Parker

James Parker is a fact-checker from Coral Springs, Florida. He majored in Communication and Media Studies at Stetson University, where he spent much of his time examining the role of optics in various fields. When not covering the latest medical or legal development, James works on personal writing projects and board game design.

--

--

--

MedTruth is a digital magazine reporting on health, safety and justice. Join the revolution today at https://medtruth.com/.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Populists can promise the world when zealots have their backs

Senate Races 2020: July 30 update

Transhumanism, Universal Basic Income, And A Republican Named Zoltan

We Cannot Have Political Yard Signs in Our Community

Let’s Talk About It

vote kamala and joe

Why Many Republicans are Putin’s Team

When Self Defense Makes No Sense

Conversation with a Typical “Liberal” Indian-American

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
MedTruth

MedTruth

MedTruth is a digital magazine reporting on health, safety and justice. Join the revolution today at https://medtruth.com/.

More from Medium

What Sloan and I see in Laundry Lines

The Musician & the Dancer

How I “cure” my never ending craving for food

Teaching in Medicine