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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all Atrium C-Qur hernia mesh lawsuits is considering whether to delay the start of the first bellwether trial until the beginning of next year, due to delays and disruptions caused by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
There are nearly 2,000 product liability lawsuits filed against Atrium Medical Corp. throughout the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that plaintiffs experienced problems with a hernia mesh system known as C-Qur (pronounced “secure”), which featured a unique polypropylene patch design with an an Omega-3 fatty acid (O3FA) gel coating.
While this design was intended to reduce scar tissue formation and promote fixation of the mesh to the abdominal wall, plaintiffs claim the C-Qur patch actually increased the risk of an inflammatory response, bowel adhesions and other painful complications, often resulting in additional surgery.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in the complaints brought throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings for all Atrium C-Qur hernia mesh cases in December 2016, centralizing the cases before U.S. District Judge Landya McCafferty in New Hampshire, for coordinating discovery, pretrial rulings and a “bellwether” process, where a group of representative claims have been prepared for trial to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the cases.
Currently the first trial is scheduled to begin on May 20, and the parties have been discussing the potential for a new trial date as a result of disruptions to the judicial process caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but have not yet reached an agreement.
In a motion (PDF) filed on April 8, Atrium asked the court to delay the start of the trial more than six months, pushing the case into January 2021 and extending all pretrial deadlines by about 90 days.
The manufacturer has asked for an expedited consideration of the motion, given the fast-approaching deadlines associated with the original trial date. Plaintiffs have been directed to file a response on or before April 16, and the Court has continued deadlines set for selecting the final trial cases that were supposed to be designated this week.
While the outcomes of these “bellwether” trials will not be binding on other claims, the process is designed to facilitate potential hernia mesh settlements that may be necessary to avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials in various U.S. District Courts nationwide following the coordinated MDL proceedings.