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By: Austin Kirk | Published: September 27th, 2012
Following the first status conference held earlier this month in the recently established multidistrict litigation (MDL) for all Coloplast vaginal mesh lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, lawyers have been assigned to serve in various leadership roles, where they will have responsibility for performing certain actions that benefit all plaintiffs.
On August 6, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established an MDL for the Coloplast mesh litigation, consolidating cases throughout the United States that have been brought by women who allege they experienced severe injuries and vaginal mesh complications from products manufactured and sold by Coloplast Corp.
The lawsuits have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Josephe R. Goodwin in the Southern District of West Virginia, where four other vaginal mesh MDLs are already pending for Bard Avaulta mesh lawsuits, American Medical Systems (AMS) mesh lawsuits, Boston Scientific mesh lawsuits and Ethicon mesh lawsuits.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that vaginal mesh and bladder sling products sold for surgical repair of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and female stress urinary incontinence (SUI) were defective and dangerous. Plaintiffs allege that the products were not adequately researched or tested, and that proper warnings were not provided about the risk of painful and debilitating problems, such as erosion of the mesh through the vagina, infection and pelvic pain.
Organization and Structure of Vaginal Mesh MDLs
Consolidation and centralization of complex product liability lawsuits for pretrial proceedings is common in the federal court system, as it reduces duplicative discovery, eliminates contradictory pretrial rulings from different judges and serves the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts. However, it is unique to have multiple different MDLs established before one judge, which involve nearly identical products manufactured by different companies.
In April 2012, after the AMS, Boston Scientific and Ethicon MDLs were assigned to Judge Goodwin, three other attorneys were appointed to serve as Coordinating Co-Lead Counel, working across MDL lines to coordinate which other attorneys are best suited to handle tasks that will be common to lawsuits filed against all defendants. In addition, individuals groups of Co-Lead Counsel were appointed in each of the MDLs, with one large Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) established to divide up duties during pretrial proceedings and discovery involving evidence common to all cases. At that time, 60 lawyers were appointed to serve on the joint vaginal mesh plaintiffs steering committee.
Coloplast Mesh Lawsuits are Fifth MDL Before Judge Goodwin
After the fifth MDL was established for the Coloplast mesh, Judge Goodwin met with attorneys involved in those cases for the first time on September 13, to discuss the organization and structure of the litigation.
In a pretrial order (PDF) issued on September 21, Judge Goodwin appointed three Coloplast mesh lawyers to serve as co-lead counsel for plaintiffs, including Riley Burnett, Jr., Mark Mueller and Robert Salim.
These attorneys will act as the spokesperson for all plaintiffs at pretrial proceedings and in response to any inquiries by the court. They will also submit and argue motions, examine witnesses, introduce evidence at pre-trial hearings and be responsible for negotiating any stipulations or settlements that apply to all cases, among other duties.
The remaining leadership structure across all of the vaginal mesh MDLs was not changed, with no additional lawyers appointed to the Plaintiff’s Executive Committee or Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee.
With regard to the discovery plan in the lawsuits, the parties advised Judge Goodwin at the conference that they are working on an early assessment plan and that Coloplast Corp. has entered into tolling agreements with a number of plaintiffs.
While Judge Goodwin indicated that he was willing to issue a temporary stay on discovery in the Coloplast mesh lawsuits, to allow the parties to develop a discovery plan, he indicated that he intends to move the MDL forward to make sure it does not fall too far behind the others. Therefore, the parties were allowed to engage in informal agreed upon discover, and no orders will be entered before the next status conference requiring discovery of either party.
The next status conference is currently scheduled for November 2, with additional conferences set for January 10, 2013 and February 7, 2013.