The heartburn medication Zantac and its alleged links to various cancers have prompted hundreds of thousands of lawsuits across the United States. In order to parse through these suits and find adequate solutions, the parties involved in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) have presented a joint plan for narrowing the field of personal injury claimants to serve as plaintiffs in bellwether trials beginning in 2023. 

A bellwether trial is a test case used by federal courts in multidistrict litigation (MDL), litigations that include many individual plaintiffs harmed by a single common product.  Bellwether trials are a procedure best used when there are a large number of cases that require similar rulings early in the life cycle of a lawsuit.

The plan for this particular MDL is to select a percentage of claimants under the categories of ten different types of cancer Zantac is alleged to have caused: 6% of plaintiffs in each cancer category, or 25% per category if there are fewer than 25 plaintiffs available. These plaintiffs will form an ‘initial discovery pool’. 

The ‘initial discovery pool’ will be thinned through methods devised in the plan, requiring potential plaintiffs to provide extensive medical information pertaining to their case and also being put under scrutiny from lawyers on either side to determine if their case fits in the scope of the bellwether trial. These processes in 2022 will eventually lead to a ‘final discovery pool’ that will participate in the 2023 bellwether trial.

Zantac, onced used routinely by consumers since the 1980s, was pulled off the market in 2018 after laboratory investigation found that the medicine contained the substance NDMA, which has been linked to a number of cancers including bladder cancer, brain cancer, breast cancer, esophageal/nasal/throat cancer, intestinal cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, uterine cancer, and other cancers. 

Many lawsuits arose from the discoveries, including a class-action lawsuit for consumers who took Zantac but were not diagnosed with cancer. 

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