How Much Is Your Zantac Case Worth?

Putting a dollar value on a lawsuit over harm caused by Zantac (ranitidine) starts with understanding how "damages" work.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Stacy Barrett, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

If you took Zantac (or its generic form "ranitidine") and you're experiencing health problems that might be linked to your use of the once-popular heartburn medication, you probably have questions about your legal options. Here's an overview of the Zantac litigation.

Why Are Zantac Lawsuits Being Filed?

For decades, ranitidine medications (like Zantac), were available over the counter and by prescription to treat conditions like heartburn, ulcers, and acid reflux. In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that tests revealed low levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in ranitidine. NDMA is a contaminant that's classified as a probable carcinogen (a substance that can cause cancer).

In 2020, the FDA requested that manufacturers remove ranitidine products (including Zantac) from the market. Manufacturers and retailers quickly pulled Zantac off the shelves across the country. In the years since this market removal, thousands of Zantac users have filed lawsuits against drug manufacturers like Sanofi, the company that owns the rights to Zantac.

Have Zantac Lawsuits Been Successful?

Thousands of Zantac lawsuits have reached out-of-court settlements in state courts all over the country. No Zantac lawsuit has reached the trial verdict stage.

The biggest court decision so far was decidedly bad news for potential plaintiffs. In 2022, a federal judge overseeing around 50,000 Zantac lawsuits (in a case consolidation process known as "multidistrict litigation" or "MDL") rejected the scientific evidence behind the plaintiffs' claims that Zantac caused cancer, and dismissed all 50,000 or so cases in one fell swoop. The MDL claimants are appealing the federal ruling, and it doesn't affect Zantac lawsuits filed in state courts.

As of early 2024, Sanofi, a manufacturer of Zantac, has agreed to pay $100 million to settle about 4,000 Zantac lawsuits (roughly $25,000 each). Pfizer, another maker of the drug, has agreed to settle more than 10,000 lawsuits filed in state courts across the United States for an undisclosed amount. Left unresolved (for now) are the 80,000 or so Zantac lawsuits pending in Delaware state court. A Delaware judge is weighing the evidence on the same issue that doomed the federal MDL—whether there is sufficient scientific evidence to support the plaintiffs' Zantac lawsuits.

What's the Legal Basis for Zantac Lawsuits?

Most people with Zantac-related cancer are suing drug manufacturers under product liability law. The details vary from state to state, but to win a product liability lawsuit, you typically must prove:

  • you were injured
  • the product you used was defective or unreasonably dangerous
  • the defect caused your injury, and
  • you were using the product as intended.

Plaintiffs in Zantac cases will likely argue, among other theories, that the medication was defectively designed (unreasonably dangerous) and that manufacturers "failed to warn" Zantac consumers that the medication increased the risk of cancer. Learn more about proving a product liability claim.

Who Can File a Zantac Lawsuit?

You might have a Zantac claim if you can prove:

  • you regularly took Zantac (or another ranitidine medicine), and
  • you developed a form of cancer.

Some types of cancers might be more closely linked to NDMA exposure than others, including:

  • esophageal
  • colorectal
  • bladder
  • pancreatic
  • liver, and
  • stomach.

Can I File a Zantac Lawsuit on Behalf of a Loved One?

There are a few situations where you might be able to file a Zantac lawsuit on behalf of a family member.

Incapacitation

You can file a lawsuit on behalf of someone who was harmed by Zantac but is unable to bring the case themselves, due to the following:

  • physical incapacitation (they're in a coma, for example), or
  • mental incapacitation (a court has deemed them incapable of taking any legally binding action, like filing a lawsuit).

To get over this hurdle, you'll probably need "power of attorney" to make legal, financial, and medical decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person. Get more details on how power of attorney works (from Nolo.com).

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Over Zantac-Related Cancer

If a loved one dies of a form of cancer that might be linked to the use of Zantac, the estate and/or family members might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit, seeking compensation for losses resulting from the deceased person's death. Learn more about who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

How Much Is a Zantac Case Worth?

If you've been diagnosed with cancer after regularly taking Zantac, you'll want to know how much your case might be worth. As with all injury-related cases, figuring out the value of a claim over the safety of Zantac or ranitidine starts with an understanding of the nature and extent of the injured person's "damages," which is a legal term that refers to compensation for losses suffered by the plaintiff. Whether your case settles out of court or you receive a judgment in your favor after a trial, the money you receive is considered damages.

Let's look at some common types of damages, and how each might affect the value of your Zantac/ranitidine lawsuit.

Cost of Past and Future Medical Care

As a plaintiff, if you win or settle your case, your damages include compensation for:

  • any medical treatment you've received as a result of health problems tied to your use of the product, and
  • any care you'll need in the future.

Note that if the full extent of your medical complications isn't clear, it's probably not in your best interest to accept an injury settlement offer. Your attorney will almost certainly want to wait until both of you have a clear picture of this component of your damages because once you accept an injury settlement, you can't go back and reopen your claim, even if you learn the health problems caused by your use of Zantac/ranitidine are worse than you first thought.

Lost Income and Diminished Earning Capacity

If your cancer diagnosis or other Zantac/ranitidine-related health problems have forced you to take time off from your job, or have otherwise affected your ability to earn a living, that kind of economic harm will also factor into your damages. Specifically, you are entitled to compensation for any income you've already lost—and for income you would have earned in the future but now won't—because of your health issues. The legal term for an award based on future income is "loss of earning capacity" or "diminished earning capacity."

What Is "Pain and Suffering" Worth In a Zantac Case?

While economic losses like medical bills and lost income are fairly easy to calculate, "pain and suffering" isn't so easy to quantify. But this category of damages plays a big part in determining how much you can expect to receive in a Zantac/ranitidine lawsuit. Pain and suffering in a Zantac case might include:

  • physical pain and discomfort resulting from heartburn drug-related health problems
  • anxiety over a diagnosis of cancer or another health problem linked to heartburn medication
  • sleeplessness, fear, depression, and other psychological effects, and
  • inability to perform certain tasks or engage in certain activities (from driving the kids to school to taking a long-planned vacation) because of heartburn medication-related health problems.

While pain and suffering is largely subjective, lawyers, insurers, and courts sometimes calculate it and other non-economic damages in direct relation to the plaintiff's economic damages. Learn more about how pain and suffering is calculated in a personal injury case.

How Long Will My Zantac Case Take?

Like most injury-related civil cases, Zantac lawsuits typically proceed through many distinct stages. And while every case is different, several key factors will determine the timeline. Learn more about the steps in a personal injury lawsuit.

Will My Zantac Case Settle?

Most lawsuits settle because the parties involved (and their lawyers) want to avoid surprises and minimize risk. Zantac (ranitidine) cases are no exception. An ill patient usually doesn't want to risk going all the way to trial and coming away with nothing, and manufacturers of ranitidine products don't want to put their financial viability or reputations in the hands of civil juries, especially when more than a few defective product cases have led to multi-million dollar plaintiffs' verdicts, often despite less-than-airtight proof of liability.

One of the biggest variables in determining how long your 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 early settlement usually isn't a good idea if there are still big unknowns, including:

  • a complete diagnosis of your health problems resulting from the use of Zantac or another ranitidine-based medication, and
  • a full picture of the medical treatment that will be necessary in the future.

Learn more about how a personal injury settlement works.

Can I Still Sue If My Zantac-Related Health Problems Didn't Show Up Right Away?

In every state, laws called "statutes of limitations" set a limit on how much time can pass before you must get a lawsuit filed in court. Different deadlines apply to different kinds of cases, but the impact of failing to comply with the time limit is the same: Miss the deadline and you've lost your right to sue and get compensation for your losses.

In many kinds of injury cases, including those stemming from health problems linked to Zantac, the statute of limitations "clock" might not start running on the date the plaintiff last used the medication. Instead, under the "discovery rule," the clock might start only when:

  • the plaintiff actually discovered (or should reasonably have discovered) that they were harmed by the medication, or
  • the plaintiff was diagnosed with a health problem caused by the medication.

For example, let's say you last used Zantac on March 1, 2020, but you didn't begin experiencing health problems (symptoms of a form of cancer, for example) until September 19, 2021. Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations "clock" might not start until September 19, 2021.

An attorney will be familiar with the statute of limitations deadline in your state and can craft a strategy for protecting your rights.

Talk to a Zantac Lawyer

If you're thinking about filing a Zantac-related injury lawsuit, having an experienced attorney on your side can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. Learn more about when you might need a Zantac (ranitidine) lawyer.

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