Very generally, a mass tort like the Zantac and Singulair cases go through a similar life cycle. This graph shows where each case in the process.
Keep in mind, a lot of factors can affect this process and each case may end up with more phases or the phases may be in a different order. That said, the phases of a case are generally:
(1) Pleadings Phase -- The plaintiffs (that's us) file complaints. Not all complaints are filed at the same time. We may file two or three complaints every week. Sometimes we cannot file that quickly because we are still investigating the claims.
Depending on the jurisdiction, the defense has between 21 and 35 days to file an answer. They often request more time, and usually get it.
(2) Motions to Dismiss -- In complex cases like these, defendants usually try to have some of our claims dismissed as a matter of law. Frequently, defendants get to file a motion, plaintiffs respond, defendants file a reply, and sometimes plaintiffs get to file a sur-reply. Just writing and filing all of these documents frequently takes two or three months. Then we have to wait for the judge to make a decision.
(3) Written Discovery -- We ask the pharmaceutical companies to give us all the documents that are relevant to the litigation. They usually take a very, very long time to provide all of the documents - possibly a year or two!
Meanwhile, we have to provide Plaintiff Fact Sheets.
(4) Depositions of Fact Witnesses -- Right off the bat, we usually need to depose five or six key witnesses from each pharmaceutical company. In the Zantac litigation, there are quite a few pharmaceutical company defendants (GSK, Pfizer, Boehringer, and Sanofi - and that is just the most basic list!)
This may also be the part of the process where some plaintiffs get deposed. Often the plaintiffs' prescribing and treating physicians are deposed during this phase as well. In some cases, the plaintiffs and other witnesses that only come into play in one case (sometimes called case-specific witnesses) are deposed after the experts, and sometimes after the judge rules on motions to exclude experts.
(5) Expert Discovery -- Our experts have to provide reports to the pharmaceutical companies and the pharmaceutical companies' experts have to provide reports to us. Each side scrutinizes the reports and then deposes the experts.
(6) Motions to Exclude Experts -- Once all the experts are deposed each side argues that the other side's experts should not be able to testify in court. If the defendants win that argument and keep our experts from testifying, that sometimes means we cannot win the case!
(7) Summary Judgment -- Regardless of whether defendants win or lose the motions to exclude the experts, they frequently file a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there is no way the plaintiffs can win the case. Again, we get to respond, they typically get to reply and sometimes we get to sur-reply. Writing all of the documents takes around three or four months. Then, we have to wait for the judge to rule.
(8) Bellwether Trials -- In this phase, plaintiffs get to "try" (meaning go to trial) a few cases that are generally representative all of the cases. We just have to keep trying cases until everyone feels like they can guess what a jury would give to each plaintiff.