Attorneys Appointed to Leadership Roles in Ethicon Morcellation Cancer Lawsuits

As a growing number of Ethicon morcellator lawsuits continue to be filed on behalf of women diagnosed with uterine cancer following a laparoscopic hysterectomy or uterine fibroid removal, the U.S. District Judge recently appointed to preside over the litigation has appointed a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys to serve in various leadership roles during discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Last month, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered that all product liability lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary over the spread of cancer from uterine morcellation will be centralized before U.S. District Judge Kathryn H. Vratil in the District of Kansas as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

Following an initial status conference earlier this month to discuss the organizational structure for the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Vratil issued an order (PDF) that appoints 20 different lawyers to take leadership roles in the MDL.

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Morcellation Lawsuits

Power morcellators used during a laparoscopic hysterectomy or uterine fibroid surgery may cause the spread of aggressive cancer.


Attorneys Paul J. Pennock and Aimee Wagstaff were appointed to serve as Co-Lead Counsel, with Kirk Goza and Robert Horn appointed as Co-Liaison Counsel. An additional group of 16 lawyers were appointed to a Plaintiff’s Steering Committee, which will conduct the coordinated discovery, argue motions before the court and negotiate potential stipulations or settlements during the proceedings.

Status of Ethicon Morcellator Lawsuits

There are currently only about two dozen complaints pending in the MDL, but as Ethicon morcellation lawyers continue to review and file claims for women and families throughout the U.S., it is ultimately expected that several hundred claims will be centralized before Judge Vratil.

Each of the complaints raise similar allegations, indicating that Ethicon sold a defective and unreasonably dangerous medical device, failing to warn about the link between laparoscopic morcellation and cancer.

Morcellators have been used in recent years during minimally invasive hysterectomy and myomectomy procedures for removal of uterine fibroids, allowing the doctor to cut up and remove the uterus or fibroids through a small incision in the abdomen. However, the devices have been largely abandoned by the medical community over the past year after it was discovered that they pose a substantial risk for some women who may have undiagnosed cancer cells contained within their uterus.

In April 2014, the FDA estimated that about one out of every 350 women undergoing surgery for symptomatic uterine fibroids may have unsuspected sarcoma, which doctors are unable to detect or diagnose before the procedure.

For these women, side effects of morcellation may cause the rapid dissemination of leiomyosarcoma, endometrial stromal sarcoma or other uterine cancers to an advanced stage that is difficult to treat and often fatal.

Ethicon was the leading manufacturer of laparoscopic morcellators, but the company announced last year that it was no longer selling the devices after determining that there was no way to make them safer.

Plaintiffs allege that Ethicon knew or should have known for years about the cancer risks associated with morcellators, yet withheld information from women and the medical community. Lawsuits indicate that women may have avoided the rapid upstaging of their uterine cancer if alternative fibroid treatment options has bee used, such as traditional surgical hysterectomy performed vaginally or abdominally, catheter-based blocking of the uterine artery, high-intensity focused ultrasound, drug therapy and laparoscopic hysterectomy or myomectomy without use of morcellation.


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