A multidistrict Zofran litigation consolidated in 2015 may have to wait until 2021 to see trial. According to U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV, the Zofran bellwether delay is directly related to concerns about spreading COVID-19.
While the judge handled the delay with a degree of levity, he opened the floor for plaintiffs and defendants to offer alternative solutions that would maintain protections. While Judge Saylor mentioned “vague discussion” of using a hotel ballroom for proceedings, the challenge of operating courts during a pandemic remains.
While some courts have allowed up to two attorneys per side to present cases, with the remainder joining via teleconferencing, the reduced number of panelists in a jury makes for a less than ideal environment to hear cases.
In addition to logistical problems within the court system, Carla Rodriguez’s Zofran bellwether delay is symptomatic of a larger problem: numerous high-priority criminal cases must be conducted before civil cases and the limited number of courtrooms open for use have placed a severe bottleneck on a system that is already regularly backlogged.
A number of ideas have been suggested to allow the Zofran bellwether to move forward this year. While it has been speculated that the case could proceed if masks alone were sufficient to protect the parties, the present uptick in COVID-19 cases nationwide has placed that suggestion on uncertain footing.
An additional “last resort” measure may include hosting the trial via teleconferencing programs such as Zoom. Judge Saylor has stated that the courts will continue to practice with caution, disinfecting projectors and equipment used in the court setting between uses.
With the restriction on courthouse occupancy and the prioritization of criminal cases before civil suits, it falls on the attorneys to work out a way to move forward. Although Judge Saylor has not definitively pushed the case to 2021 hoping for a November or December date if the conditions improve, he has explained that the idea is becoming less and less achievable.
It is possible that the Zofran bellwether delay may push the opposing sides to negotiate a settlement. MedTruth will continue to follow this case as it develops.