Different rulings in state and federal courts are thus setting the stage for what cases will be filed where, and how Zantac cancer litigation will play out in the next few years.
Millions of Americans took Zantac (ranitidine) for heartburn and acid reflux before it was taken off the market in 2019. Its recall followed findings that ranitidine’s active pharmaceutical ingredient is unstable. Upon activation in the human body,ranitidine produces high levels of N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a potent human carcinogen.
Zantac Cancer Lawsuits
More than 100,000 lawsuits have now been filed, collectively, against GlaxoSmithKline, Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer, Sanofi and various other manufacturers, distributors and retailers that participated in selling brand name Zantac or generic ranitidine pills. Plaintiffs in those cases allege Zantac caused cancer as NDMA moved through their bodies after years of exposure.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in Zantac lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, centralized pretrial proceedings have been established in a federal MDL before U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg in the Southern District of Florida. Judge Rosenberg has thus far considered evidence during several “Daubert” hearings. These hearings are meant to assess the knowledge and credentials of expert witnesses hired by plaintiffs’ attorneys to show the link between NDMA in Zantac and certain types of cancer.
Zantac Daubert Hearings regarding Bladder, Esophageal, Liver, Pancreatic, Stomach Cancer
Daubert hearings are named for a U.S. Supreme Court decision which created standards for what kind of expert witness testimony, as well as what witnesses, will be allowed in federal courts. That case was Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and it altered the field of play in civil litigation forever. The idea is that Daubert hearings are supposed to allow the judge to decide whether the proposed expert opinions are sound and reliable enough to be heard by a jury. As any reasonable person might imagine, despite whatever language is used to describe it, the Daubert process is ultimately subjective.
Daubert hearings have thus far sifted through the studies that link NDMA in Zantac to specific cancers. The federal MDL court has shown it may be open to hearing Zantac cancer cases for five particular cancers. The list includes bladder cancer, esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, liver cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Meanwhile, those who have used Zantac in the past have reported being diagnosed later with several other types of cancer. That list includes breast cancer, kidney cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer.
Because expert testimony regarding these types of cancer is not now allowed to be aired in the federal court system, individuals with one of these cancers are not filing their claims in the MDL. They are, however, filing these lawsuits in various state courts around the country. State courts have different standards than U.S. federal courts for which scientific study findings are allowed to be used as evidence to support claims.
Several media reports confirm thousands of claims have been filed in Delaware state courts this fall. Delaware is a reasonable venue because several of the drug makers are based there. Defendants have attempted, but were unable to, remove those claims to the federal court system. Several other state court complaints have been filed in California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.
November 2022 Zantac Lawsuit Update
Plaintiffs and Defense are closely monitoring Daubert hearings in the Zantac MDL federal court system. Both sides are waiting to see whether plaintiffs will be allowed to present expert evidence to a jury in an attempt to prove Zantac use is scientifically linked to the five named cancers.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys at this date believe that the available studies which link Zantac to bladder cancer, esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer will be cleared by the judge to move to trial. Nevertheless, the drug makers could convince the judge to exclude expert testimony that links Zantac to specific cancers. That would mean plaintiffs would probably not be able to establish their claims in the MDL.
Zantac State Court Trials
Four Zantac lawsuits are scheduled to be heard in California state court in 2023. Trial cases are scheduled to be heard by different juries on February 13, 2023; May 1, 2023; August 7, 2023; October 23, 2023.
Plaintiffs and Defendants will closely monitor these trials. The hope is that they establish what some call a “bellwether,” which is meant to give both sides reasonable expectations of how future juries will feel about different evidence and testimony which, in the past MDL’s at least, is typically used in subsequent trials throughout a litigation.