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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal hernia mesh lawsuits involving the Atrium C-Qur patch, which have been consolidated for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, has scheduled the first “bellwether” trial for February 2020.
Atrium C-Qur (pronounced “secure”) was a widely used hernia repair product, which was introduced in March 2006, containing a polypropylene mesh that has an Omega-3 fatty acid (O3FA) gel coating. While this was designed to reduce scar tissue formation, while promoting fixation of the mesh to the abdominal wall, the C-Qur patch has been linked to a large number of reported problems, including inflammatory responses, bowel adhesions and other painful complications.
Nearly 500 Atrium C-Qur lawsuits have been filed throughout the federal court system each raising similar allegations that the hernia mesh was defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous, causing individuals to require complex surgical procedures to remove the patch from their body months or even years after it was implanted.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in the cases, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings for all Atrium C-Qur cases in December 2016, centralizing all claims before U.S. District Judge Landya McCafferty in the District of New Hampshire to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.
In a case management order (PDF) issued on May 29, Judge McCafferty established a “bellwether” schedule, where a small group of representative cases will be prepared for early trial to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
The order calls for parties to select a total of 16 cases, eight each, which will make up an initial discovery pool. Those cases will be selected by July 20, and plaintiffs will then be required to complete a Plaintiff Fact Sheet by September 18, and the manufacturer will complete a Defendant Fact Sheet in each case by December 17, 2018.
Following initial discovery in these cases, the group will be pared down to eight claims by March 1, 2019, with Plaintiffs selecting four and Defendants selecting four, which will continue with case-specific discovery and expert discovery, which is to be completed by September 20, 2019. Daubert motions on challenges to the admissibility of expert testimony will be filed by October 18, 2019, and responses are due by November 1, 2019, according to the order, which indicates that the first “bellwether” trial will begin on February 19, 2020.
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.