What is a Bellwether Trial?

It is highly unlikely that your case will be selected as a “bellwether case.”  However, the bellwether process is likely to impact later trials and possible settlements, including your case.

Bellwether is a tool used by federal courts in multidistrict litigation (MDL) – that is litigations that include many individual plaintiffs harmed by a single common product.  It is a procedure best used when there is a large number of cases that require similar rulings early in the life cycle of a lawsuit.

In bellwether proceedings, a small group of plaintiffs are selected and their cases are fast tracked for any remaining discovery and trial.  During the bellwether process, other plaintiff’s cases are generally “stayed” meaning the legal process pauses while the attorneys and court concentrate on the bellwether cases.  This may feel like your case is being ignored, and you may become frustrated that the courts and lawyers are concentrating on other cases, but, it is important to remember that decisions made during the bellwether process are likely to impact your case.

Bellwether cases are important data points for lawyers in that it provides information regarding the likely outcome of other cases at trial, such as:

  1. How well or poorly the parties’ fact and expert witnesses perform in a trial setting; and
  2. Decisions on key legal issues and the admissibility of key evidence.
  3. Learn what sorts of damages a jury might deem appropriate for certain types of alleged injuries

The outcome of these trials produces a great deal of value for your lawsuit as it is likely to give your lawyer a more realistic idea of what is likely to happen in future trials.  The bellwether cases often result in strategic plans organized on your behalf.  Verdicts/outcomes of bellwether cases often result in baselines or criteria of understanding strong or weak cases.  This understanding can lead to some constructive settlement conversations with defense counsel and the courts.

If you are not selected for the bellwether process, it may seem as if your case is not moving forward.  This is not the case.  Although we may not be asking for your direct involvement, the bellwether process is likely to directly impact your case and we will keep you posted regarding the results and when we will proceed with your trial or settlement.