The 201st Civil District Court in Travis County held a status conference today. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs, intervenors, and Defendant GTECH participated.
Judge Amy Clark Meachum agreed with the attorneys that it makes sense to hold a series of “bellwether” trials instead of attempting to hold one trial for all plaintiffs at the same time. A trial of all plaintiffs at the same time would require plaintiffs from all over the state to travel to Austin for a trial that would likely last many months.
Bellwether trials are commonly used in mass tort cases. In a bellwether trial, attorneys select a representative group of plaintiffs (usually 8 to 10) and try their claims first. The plaintiffs and defendant can then use the result of that first trial to evaluate whether to settle the remaining cases. If the entire case does not settle after the first bellwether trial, a second bellwether trial will be held for the next group of plaintiffs. If the entire case does not settle after the second bellwether trial, the court will continue holding trials until everyone has an opportunity to have their case heard. It is believed that each bellwether trial can be completed in just one week.
The Court is not currently able to conduct in-person jury trials because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Court has set the date for the first bellwether trial for January 24, 2022. She will provide the attorneys with an additional date in April 2022 for the second bellwether trial.