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A panel of federal judges have decided to establish a seventh Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in the vaginal mesh litigation, centralizing all lawsuits involving pelvic repair products manufactured by Neomedic before the same judge presiding over more than 40,000 cases involving products made by other manufacturers.
According to an order (PDF) issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on February 18, all Neomedic vaginal sling lawsuits will be consolidated before U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin in the Southern District of West Virginia to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
There are currently on 21 cases filed involving the Neomedic Needleless Sling, Contasure Needleless sling, Remeex System or other Neomedic mesh products, with at least 14 of those cases already pending in West Virginia federal court.
Judge Goodwin is already presiding over six other vaginal mesh MDLs that have been established for cases involving other manufacturers. According to an updated case list (PDF) released by the U.S. JPML on February 19, Judge Goodwin is currently assigned to oversee 12,992 Ethicon mesh lawsuits, 13,292 American Medical Systems (AMS) mesh lawsuits, 7,617 Boston Scientific mesh lawsuits, 6,172 Bard Avaulta mesh lawsuits, 1,155 Coloplast mesh lawsuits and 152 Cook Medical mesh lawsuits.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that women experienced complications from vaginal mesh surgery, where the products were used transvaginally to repair pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or female stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Plaintiffs indicate that they have suffered painful and debilitating injuries when the mesh eroded through the vagina, caused infection or other health problems.
Neomedic opposed the creation of a seventh MDL, arguing that it would harm the progress already made on cases that have been filed against the manufacturer. However, the panel noted that these cases are often intertwined, and that severing the Neomedic cases to a different court would contradict their previous determination that all of the vaginal mesh cases should be handled together under one judge.
“It is possible that cases involving Neomedic and another manufacturer defendant will be filed in the future,” the JPML stated in its decision. “Centralization in this district, therefore, will avoid the complications of having these multi-product, multi-defendant cases pending in more than one district.”
Vaginal Mesh Litigation Status
While the number of vaginal mesh lawsuits continues to grow nationwide, Judge Goodwin has scheduled a series of early trial dates involving cases filed against C.R. Bard, Ethicon, Boston Scientific and AMS. Known as “bellwether” trials, these early test cases are designed to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout a number of similar cases.
While the outcomes of these bellwether cases are not binding on other claims, they may lead to vaginal mesh settlements to avoid thousands of individual trial dates throughout the country.
At least five pelvic mesh cases have already gone before juries, with two cases going before state court juries and three cases proceeding to trial in federal court. In July 2012, a California state court jury awarded $5.5 million in damages against C.R. Bard and a New Jersey state court jury awarded $11.1 million in damages against Ethicon in March 2013.
In July 2013, a federal jury awarded $2 million in damages against Bard, including punitive damages designed to punish the manufacturer for their actions surrounding the design and sale of Avaulta pelvic mesh products. A second Bard case settled during the first day of trial for an undisclosed sum.
Earlier this week, Judge Goodwin entered a defense verdict in an Ethicon bellwether trial, granting the manufacturer’s motion for judgment as a matter of law following the plaintiff’s case after the Court found that insufficient evidence had been presented for the jury to find that a defect in the mesh was the cause of that plaintiff’s injury.
Throughout the year, additional trials are expected to begin against Bard, AMS, Boston Scientific and Ethicon, with about one case per month beginning before Judge Goodwin between February 2014 and December 2014.