With links between Zantac (ranitidine) and the development of cancer—and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting that manufacturers withdraw all ranitidine drugs from the market—you might be considering filing a lawsuit over this once-popular heartburn medication. If so, here's what to know at the outset:
Like most injury-related civil cases, lawsuits over illness linked to heartburn medication typically proceed through a number of distinct stages. And while every case is different, a number of factors will determine the timeline. Here's a snapshot of the key phases of a typical lawsuit over the safety of Zantac (ranitidine):
Those are the basics of the process, but the two sides could discuss (and finalize) a settlement at any point (more on this later). Now let's take a closer look at factors that have the biggest impact on how long the heartburn medication lawsuit process might take.
Most Zantac lawsuits rely on the legal concept of product liability, in which a plaintiff seeks to hold a manufacturer responsible for health problems caused by an unreasonably dangerous or otherwise defective pharmaceutical or consumer product. These kinds of cases can be quite complex. There may be issues to address right at the outset, including the appropriate statute-of-limitations filing deadline if the plaintiff's heartburn medication-linked illness didn't show up right away. And there will certainly be stacks of medical records to sift through, plus expert witnesses to hear from (often multiple experts on both sides of the case).
All this means some of the phases mentioned above will undoubtedly take longer than they might in a less complex lawsuit (one stemming from a car accident, for example). That's especially true when it comes to the discovery process and the filing of pretrial motions that will set the ground rules for any trial. And given that many individual Zantac lawsuits end up getting moved to the existing multi-district litigation, one case calendar will apply to hundreds of claims. Learn more about the Zantac MDL and how it works.
As discussed above, any lawsuit over the safety of a medication like Zantac is bound to follow roughly the same path from the filing of the complaint through a trial, especially where the MDL is concerned, but it's also important to note that settlement of a Zantac lawsuit can take place at any time.
As the trial date gets closer and the parties get a better sense of the case landscape (and of their respective chances of prevailing), there's a good chance they'll at least test the settlement waters. And even if the two sides don't come together on their own to try to resolve the heartburn medication case out of court, depending on the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is filed, the court is almost certain to require that the plaintiff and defendant attend at least one mandatory settlement conference before trial takes place.
Keep in mind that if your case is part of the Zantac (ranitidine) MDL, and a global settlement is reached, you can usually choose whether to take part in the agreement or continue your lawsuit.
One of the biggest variables in determining how long your heartburn medication illness lawsuit will take is you. If the defendant offers you a settlement early on, and you accept the deal, you'll certainly end up with some fast cash, but you might not be getting full and fair compensation for your losses. (More: How much is a Zantac case worth?)
Early settlement usually isn't a good idea if there are still big unknowns, including:
Before any of the formal litigation steps described in this article, the first move for a potential plaintiff is consulting an experienced attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to explain the rules in your jurisdiction and your strategic options. An attorney can present the pros and cons of settlement, including the fact that once you settle, you can't go back and ask for more money, even if it turns out your health problems are worse than you first thought. Get tips on finding the right attorney for you and your Zantac (ranitidine) lawsuit.