What are Bellwether Trials? Why are they important?

Have you read a news headline about a case settlement and wondered if your case was settled too? Most likely, it was a bellwether trial. Here, we discuss what they are and why they are important.

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What is a Bellwether Trial?

Mass torts typically involve thousands of individual cases, with plaintiffs sustaining a variety of different injuries. Unfortunately, our court system isn’t set up to handle a high volume of cases in a timely manner. There needs to be a way to process all of these cases, or to help foster a negotiation between the two parties. So, a bellwether trial is a trial that is conducted to help the two sides assess the strengths and weaknesses of these cases. The results of a bellwether trial can help both sides better understand how a jury might rule on the issues in the case, and can also help to facilitate settlement negotiations.

In video below, Product Liability Attorney Kelsey Stokes does a great job explaining the bellwether process. She is the lead counsel for mass tort plaintiffs fighting against two major corporations involving Hernia Mesh products. 

Bellwether trials are not always successful in achieving the goals stated in the video. Like in some of the Hernia Mesh product liability lawsuits, sometimes the defense party may request reschedules to further delay justice. Despite that, the bellwether trial process can be a valuable tool in mass tort litigation, and can help to resolve cases faster and with fairness.

Benefits of bellwether trials:

  • They can help to reduce the cost and time of litigation.
  • They can help to resolve cases faster.
  • They can help to create a sense of fairness for the plaintiffs.


Challenges of bellwether trials:

  • They can be expensive and time-consuming to conduct.
  • They can be difficult to select cases that are representative of the entire litigation.
  • The results of a bellwether trial may not be predictive of the outcome of other cases in the litigation.

When news breaks of a bellwether trial conclusion, like in August when a Rhode Island jury awarded $4.8 million to a hernia mesh victim from Hawaii, it sometimes draws a mass of attention and eagerness from current and potential clients.

For those who may be wondering how their case is doing, or if their case has reached a settlement after hearing a news story, rest assured that the work done on bellwether trials directly impacts your individual case. The process may be slow, but it helps to have patience when dealing with the wheels of justice. 

For our personal injury law firm, when a settlement is reached, our office will contact you and help you through the next steps of the process. Clients can always reach out to our office directly for personal updates.

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