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The number of women pursuing injury lawsuits over Mirena birth control continue to mount, with more than 1,000 complaints already filed in New Jersey state court and the federal court system.
Mirena is a long-lasting form of birth control known as an intrauterine device, or IUD. According to claims brought by women nationwide, Merck sold the product without providing adequate warnings about potential Mirena side effects, particularly the risk that the T-shaped device may migrate and cause severe internal injuries.
Amid a growing number of product liability lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized the Mirena litigation in the federal court system in April 2013, consolidating all cases before U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel in the Southern District of New York for coordinated handling during pretrial proceedings.
According to a case list (PDF) released by the U.S. JPML on February 19, there are currently at least 408 cases in the Mirena MDL, which have been centralized for reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the witnesses, parties and the courts.
Similar centralized proceedings have been established in New Jersey state court, where a large number of cases have been filed at the state level, as Merck’s U.S. headquarters are based in New Jersey. According to a case list (PDF) released by the New Jersey courts last week, there are currently at least 628 complaints pending in the state. All of the cases have been centralized before New Jersey Superior Court Judge Brian R. Martinotti in Bergen County, who is scheduled to hold a case management conference on Tuesday, February 25.
The number of new cases filed is growing at a rapid rate in both New Jersey and the federal court system. The size of the federal Mirena litigation has increased nearly 20% over the past month, with the total number of cases increasing from 344 pending as of January 15. In New Jersey, a case list released on on February 7th indicated that 579 cases were pending, indicating that the litigation has grown by nearly 10% over the subsequent two weeks.
Many Mirena injury lawyers reviewing potential claims anticipate that there will ultimately be several thousand cases filed by women who have experienced migration of the IUD birth control, perforation of the uterus, infection or other complications that resulted in the need for surgical removal of Mirena.
Mirena IUD Litigation
Bayer introduced Mirena in 2000, aggressively promoting the IUD as a hassle-free form of birth control. However, a growing number of women and their doctors have reported problems where the Mirena IUD migrated from its initial implant location, perforating the uterus and other organs, causing infections and abscesses, and leaving women unknowingly unprotected against the chance of pregnancy.
Since 2000, more than 70,000 adverse events have been filed with the FDA involving Mirena IUD problems, including at least 5,000 cases involving women who indicated that Mirena migrated out of place since 2008, and 1,322 reports where the Mirena IUD punctured the uterus.
Bayer has attempted to defend the cases, arguing that information about the risk of perforation was included on the warnings provided with the IUD. However, plaintiffs maintain that the previous warnings were vague and misleading, suggesting that the risk of injury only exists at the time of insertion. Most of the complaints involve women who found that the Mirena migrated spontaneously, often long after the IUD was successfully placed in the uterus.
In both the federal litigation and state court cases, discovery in on-going into generic issues that impact all cases. It is expected that a series of early trial dates, known a “bellwether” cases, will be scheduled to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence or testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation.
The preparation of these bellwether cases and the outcome of any early trial dates may help facilitate further negotiations to reach Mirena settlement agreements or other resolutions for the litigation without setting hundreds of individual trial dates in courts throughout the country.