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By: Austin Kirk | Published: May 24th, 2013
A group of four lawyers have been appointed to serve in various leadership positions in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) established for all Mirena birth control lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system, including three Co-Lead Counsel and one Liaison Counsel.
Last month, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered that all lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country involving complications from Mirena IUD birth control will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel in the Southern District of New York for coordinated handling during pretrial proceedings.
An initial conference was held before Judge Seibel on May 17, during which the status and organizational structure of the litigation was discussed.
In an order (PDF) issued on May 22, Judge Seibel appointed Fred Thompson III, Matthew McCauley and James Ronca to serve as Co-Lead Counsel for the plaintiffs. In addition, Diogenes Kekatos was appointed to serve as Plaintiff’s Liaison Counsel, who will coordinate communication between the court and various lawyers and law firms involved in the litigation.
These attorneys will take various actions throughout the litigation that will benefit all plaintiffs who filed a product liability lawsuit over Mirena birth control, including conducting discovery, arguing motions before the court and negotiating potential agreements or stipulations throughout the coordinated proceedings.
Judge Seibel indicates that the Co-Lead Counsel and Liaison Counsel should submit proposals by June 17, 2013 regarding the appointment of additional lawyers to serve on a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee. The Court has also asked for the submission of a proposed structure for responsibilities and tasks of attorneys appointed to each leadership role, explaining how the division will promote the advancement of the Mirena MDL and avoid unnecessary duplication of work and overstaffing.
During the MDL proceedings, it is expected that a small group of cases will be selected for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” cases. If a Mirena birth control settlement is not reached following the pretrial litigation and any early trial dates, each individual case may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial.
Lawsuits Allege Problems with Mirena Migration, Perforations
Mirena is a long-acting form of birth control manufactured by Bayer Healthcare, which involves a T-shaped plastic device that is implanted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Although the Mirena warning label indicates that there is a risk of perforation at the time of insertion, the lawsuits allege that Bayer failed to adequately warn about the risk of “spontaneous” migrations, where the device can move long after implanted, causing severe internal damage, infections and other injuries.
During last week’s conference, both parties filed position statements on the case, with Bayer claiming that it has provided adequate warning against the risk of migrations since Mirena was first approved in 2000.
Plaintiffs argue that Bayer only warned against migration that might occur because the Mirena was not implanted correctly. They say the company has never warned that after successful implantation, the IUD might migrate, potentially puncturing the uterus and other vital organs. The plaintiffs position statement claims indicates that in some cases the Mirena IUD is located in a place too dangerous for removal, requiring patients to undergo regular monitoring to ensure it does not cause severe internal damage.
At the time the Mirena MDL was established, nearly 50 lawsuits were pending in 17 different federal district courts throughout the country, and Mirena birth control lawyers investigating cases have suggested that thousands of cases are likely to be filed in the coming months.