Yaz, Yasmin Judge Promises to Push for Settlement Next Year, After First Test Trials Conclude

Once the initial test, or bellwether, trials are completed in the federal <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/YAZ">Yaz and Yasmin litigation, the judge overseeing the lawsuits says he will push the parties to reach a settlement. In a order dated August 18, 2011, Judge R. Herndon in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois revealed that “the Court is presently working on a process that will engage the parties in settlement discussions following the bellwether trials in a meaningful way.”

More than 6,300 lawsuits are currently pending in the Yaz and Yasmin multidistrict litigation before Judge Herndon. The lawsuits allege that Bayer failed to adequately warn about the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening side effects of Yaz and Yasmin birth control, such as a stroke, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or gallbladder disease.

The first of three bellwether trials in the litigation is expected to start early next year. That case involves a plaintiff who claims to have suffered a pulmonary embolism because of Yaz. The other two test trials involve allegations that the drugs caused gallbladder disease and a venous thromboembolism. The purpose of bellwether trials is to gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence and testimony that is common to all of the cases in a mass litigation, and hopefully, pave the way to settlement.

Plaintiffs had motioned Judge Herndon to consolidate several individual lawsuits into the second and third trials, asserting that Bayer has so far resisted any type of settlement, and arguing that trying cases one plaintiff at a time would “commit this litigation to a lifespan of eternity.” But in his August 18 order denying that motion, Judge Herndon wrote that he had “no intention of presiding over anything into eternity, let alone this litigation.”

“This comes as a surprise to the parties since the Court has not, until this moment, revealed this plan to the parties, but the Court assures all concerned that when the time is appropriate each party will be given input in the process. No party has yet excluded the possibility of engaging in meaningful settlement discussions, there have only been disagreements about when those efforts should begin,” his order stated.

Both Yaz and Yasmin are made with a type of progestin called drospirenone, making them different from many other oral contraceptives. Drospirenone can elevate the body’s potassium levels, which can lead to a condition called hyperkalemia in certain patients, which may result in potentially serious heart and health problems. In May, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Yaz, Yasmin, and other contraceptives made with drospirenone were being monitored because of fears they might increase a woman’s risk of developing a blood clot more than birth control pills made with a different type of progestin. The Drug Safety Communication was issued after The British Medical Journal reported a two- to three-fold greater risk of blood clots, including pulmonary embolism, in women using oral contraceptives containing drospirenone rather than a progestin called levonorgestrel.

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