Court documents indicate the lawsuits alleging injuries and harm caused by the interstitial cystitis drug Elmiron could go to trial as early as January 2023. Judge Brian R. Martinotti is overseeing about 240 federal Elmiron cases being handled through the District of New Jersey.

In Case Management Order No. 9 filed in the District Court on May 13, 2021, Judge Martinotti ordered the parties to continue discovery. The judge also ordered the parties to file a plan to select bellwether cases for additional discovery before trial.

Judge Martinotti stated that the first bellwether trial in this Elmiron MDL would be held in or about January 2023. After that, additional bellwether cases would follow. 

What is a Bellwether Case?

Bellwether is a term used to describe the initial trials held in MDLs (Multidistrict Litigations). The bellwether trials indicate trends that the parties may use to judge how juries might decide future cases.

Generally, bellwether trials include a smaller set of a large group of plaintiffs. The cases are chosen because the members of the cases are a good representation of the entire group. Because the cases are a good representation of the entire group, they can set a precedent for future cases.

The outcome of bellwether trials often encourages parties to settle claims instead of going to court. The parties have a good indication of how juries view the evidence related to the issues being litigated. 

Even though each case is tried separately and the facts may be slightly different, the underlying issues and evidence are the same or similar in each case. As a result, bellwether cases can improve efficiency and speed up the process of settling claims in mass tort cases.

What is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) causes chronic pain in the pelvic region surrounding the bladder and in the bladder. 

The condition generally causes inflammation and irritation in the bladder walls. In addition, IC can cause stiffening of the bladder and scarring. The causes of IC are unknown, but the condition can affect men and women of all ages and ethnic or racial backgrounds. 

Symptoms of IC include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Tenderness
  • Pelvic or abdominal discomfort
  • Intense pain in the pelvic region and in the bladder
  • A feeling of pelvic or abdominal pressure
  • Severe lower abdominal pain that worsens as the bladder empties or fills
  • Feeling of urgency to urinate

A person may have some or none of the above symptoms, making diagnosing IC challenging in some cases. 

Why are People Suing the Manufacturer of Elmiron?

Elmiron is the only approved oral medication that treats the pain and discomfort of interstitial cystitis. The use of Elmiron has been linked to retinal damage. The retinal damage can lead to vision loss and pigmentary maculopathy, a degenerative eye condition. 

Symptoms of Elmiron-related retinal damage include:

  • Loss of vision
  • Vision distortion
  • Trouble adjusting to the darkness

The makers of Elmiron, Johnson & Johnson, added a warning that use of Elmiron had the risk of causing pigmentary maculopathy in June 2020. However, Elmiron has been on the market since 1996.

The lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson allege that it knew about the risk of retinal damage and vision loss long before it added the warning in 2020. Plaintiffs claim that the company failed to warn doctors and patients of the risks of using the drug.

Seeking Damages for Injuries and Losses

The plaintiffs allege they are entitled to compensation for their losses and damages caused by using Elmiron. 

Examples of the types of damages plaintiffs are seeking include:

  • Permanent vision loss or impaired vision
  • Injuries to the retina 
  • Permanent disability caused by pigmentary maculopathy
  • Cost of medical care and treatment
  • Cost of personal care and assistance with activities of daily living
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Decreases in the person’s quality of life
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • The loss of income, including future wages and decreases in future earning potential

The value of your personal injury claim depends on the severity of your injury and your financial losses. However, the bellwether trials will also impact the value of individual claims. 

If you have used Elmiron and experienced retinal damage or vision loss, consult a doctor immediately. Your injuries may be the direct result of Elmiron use. It may also be a good idea to speak with a lawyer about your case.

There are deadlines for filing Elmiron injury lawsuits. There is time to consider your legal options before the Elmiron MDL bellwether cases go to trial.