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By: Austin Kirk | Published: November 18th, 2013
The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal vaginal mesh lawsuits has scheduled a third bellwether trial against American Medical Systems (AMS), involving a pelvic organ prolapse case that will go before a jury in August 2014.
There are currently more than 35,000 product liability complaints filed throughout the federal court system involving complications from transvaginal mesh used to repair pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or bladder slings used to repair female stress urinary incontinence (SUI), including claims against AMS, C.R. Bard, Ethicon, Boston Scientific, Coloplast Corp. and Cook Medical.
Six different multidistrict litigations (MDLs) have been established in the federal court system for cases against each of the manufacturers, with all of the pretrial proceedings in the cases centralized before U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin in the Southern District of West Virginia to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
In each of the MDLs, a series of early vaginal mesh trial dates have been scheduled, known as “bellwether” cases, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain testimony and evidence that will be repeated throughout similar cases.
Following a series of trials involving Bard Avaulta mesh lawsuits that will conclude this year, seven different cases were previously scheduled to go before juries in 2014, including three trials for Ethicon mesh lawsuits, two trials for Boston Scientific mesh lawsuits and two trials for AMS pelvic mesh lawsuits.
In an Order (PDF) issued November 13, Judge Goodwin scheduled a third bellwether trial in the AMS litigation involving a pelvic organ mesh lawsuit, which is expected to go before a jury on August 19, 2014.
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a medical condition, which sometimes occurs in women after childbirth or surgery, where the womb falls into the vaginal area. This can also lead to the bladder and bowels slipping out of place and putting pressure on the vagina. In recent years, synthetic mesh has been used to repair pelvic organ prolapse, but several reports suggest that the products provide no benefits over other treatment options.
The AMS trial in August will be selected from a pool of POP cases filed on or before January 1, 2013, which are currently undergoing case-specific discovery. In January 2014, the parties are expected to select two cases from the discovery pool, which will be eligible for the first trial date, with the specific case that will go before a jury for the August 19 trial date selected by the Court in May 2014.
Vaginal Mesh Litigation
The early trial dates scheduled in the vaginal mesh litigation are designed to provide the parties with insight into the relative strengths and weaknesses of different cases that are representative of other similar lawsuits. The pretrial proceedings and outcomes for these jury trials may facilitate further vaginal mesh settlement negotiations between the parties.
The last in a series of bellwether trials involving Bard’s Avaulta mesh is set to begin December 3, involving a case brought by Carolyn Jones.
In July, the first Bard Avaulta trial in the federal court system ended with a jury award of $2 million for plaintiff, including punitive damages designed to punish the manufacturer for their actions surrounding the sale of the product. During the first day of trial in a second bellwether case the next month, a Bard Avaulta mesh settlement agreement was reached to resolve the case for an undisclosed amount.
Next year, at least one case is scheduled to start each month between February and August 2014, with Judge Goodwin likely to schedule additional cases in the coming months.
Last month it was reported that several different manufacturers are engaged in negotiations to settle vaginal mesh lawsuits to avoid individual trials for thousands of claims.
In June, Endo Health Solutions disclosed that it had reached AMS mesh settlements to resolve an unspecified number of claims against their subsidiary for a combined $54.5 million payment. Therefore, it has been suggested that the scheduled AMS trials may not ever reach a jury.
Following the bellwether trials held in each of the vaginal mesh MDLs, if the manufacturers do not reach agreements to resolve a large portion of the litigation, Judge Goodwin may begin remanding hundreds of cases back to U.S. District Courts where they were originally filed for separate trial dates.