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Bard Avaulta Vaginal Mesh Lawsuits Selected for First Trials in MDL

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The first of four separate federal trials involving problems with Bard Avaulta mesh will begin in June, after the federal judge presiding over thousands of similar vaginal mesh lawsuits denied a request made by plaintiffs to have the first batch of bellwether test cases tried at the same time.

In a court order (PDF) issued on March 7, U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin determined that the first four Bard Avaulta lawsuits in the federal MDL will each receive an individual trial, rejecting a suggestion that a group of cases be tried at the same time as part of a consolidated trial.

Earlier this month, plaintiffs filed a Motion asking that three cases be consolidated for trial before the same jury, or that the Court seat three separate juries to hear the same evidence during a single trial, but to deliberate separately for each case.

Judge Goodwin denied the request, and has indicated that four separate trials will be held in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, where all federal lawsuits over Bard Avaulta mesh have been centralized as part of an MDL, or multi-district litigation.

According to the pretrial order, the first Bard Avaulta trial in the federal court system will involve a lawsuit filed by Donna and Dan Cisson. That case will be followed by claims by Linda and Ron Rizzo, then Carolyn Jones, and Wanda and Greg Queen. According to another Order (PDF) issued in December, the first trial date is scheduled to begin on June 11, 2013.

Thousands of Lawsuits Filed Over Vaginal Mesh Products

These bellwether cases have been selected as test cases to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be offered throughout the vaginal mesh litigation, which includes thousands of lawsuits filed over the Bard Avaulta mesh and other similar products manufactured by other companies.

Judge Goodwin currently presides over five different consolidated proceedings involving vaginal mesh products manufactured by C.R. Bard, American Medical Systems (AMS), Boston Scientific, Ethicon and Coloplast Corp., respectively.

All of the cases involve similar allegations that the manufacturers sold dangerous and defective surgical mesh products used for transvaginal repair of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or female stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Plaintiffs allege that they suffered injuries when the mesh eroded through the vagina, caused infections or other severe complications.

The cases are centralized to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

As part of the consolidated pretrial proceedings, a small group of cases are being prepared for early trial dates in each of the proceedings, known as “bellwether” cases. The outcomes of these trials may help the parties ultimately reach vaginal mesh settlement agreements in a large number of cases.

Following the June trial date involving Bard Avaulta mesh, a series of three additional trials are scheduled to begin in December 2013 involving lawsuits filed over AMS mesh, Boston Scientific mesh and Ethicon Gynecare mesh.

State Court Trials Have Resulted in Award of Millions in Damages

The scheduled trial dates in the Bard Avaulta MDL will be the first cases in the federal court system to go before a jury. However, other cases have gone to trial in California state court and New Jersey state court.

In July 2012, a California state court jury awarded $5.5 million in damages from Bard Avaulta mesh following a lawsuit brought by 53 year old Christine Scott, who alleged that design defects allowed the mesh to slice through her colon, resulting in at least eight additional surgeries.

Last month, a New Jersey state court jury awarded $11.1 million damages in an Ethicon vaginal mesh lawsuit brought by Linda Gross of South Dakota, who required at least 18 surgeries that she claimed could have been avoided if the manufacturer had adequately warned consumers and the medical community about the possible risk of injuries.

According to the latest updated (PDF) provided by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on March 5, Judge Goodwin’s West Virginia court is currently presiding over 1,956 Bard Avaulta lawsuits; 3,974 AMS vaginal mesh lawsuits; 2,317 Boston Scientific pelvic mesh lawsuits; 3,798 Ethicon Gynecare mesh lawsuits and 188 Coloplast bladder sling lawsuits.

The number of lawsuits filed throughout the country has continued to increase since the FDA issued a warning in July 2011, indicating that thousands of women had reported suffering problems with vaginal mesh products. After a review of all available data, the FDA concluded that there was no evidence that transvaginal mesh provides any additional benefits when compared to more traditional surgery to repair pelvic organ prolapse.

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