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Cook IVC Filter Lawsuit Results in $3M Verdict in First Phase of Bellwether Trial

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A federal jury in Indiana has determined that Cook Medical should pay $3 million in compensatory damages to a woman who suffered complications from an IVC filter, and will consider whether additional punitive damages should be awarded during a second phase.

The verdict came as part of a “bellwether” trial held in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, which is being closely watched to gauge how other juries may respond to similar evidence and testimony in more than 4,700 Cook IVC filter lawsuits pending in the federal court system.

On February 1, the jury returned a verdict (PDF) in favor of Tonya Brand, finding that a Cook Celect IVC filter she received was defectively designed, and caused her to suffer serious injuries.

The jury awarded $3 million in compensatory damages, and the case has now gone into a punitive damages phase, where the jury will consider whether additional damages should be awarded to punish Cook for acting with reckless disregard for Brand’s safety.

Allegations raised at trial are similar to those presented in other cases pending as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young in the Southern District of Indiana. Each of the plaintiffs indicate that Cook Celect, Cook Gunther Tulip or other inferior vena cava (IVC) filters were defectively designed and prone to migrate out of position, puncturing internal organs, fracturing or causing other serious health complications.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the MDL, a small group of representative cases have been selected for a “bellwether” process, which are being prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation.

On February 5, the court issued an order (PDF) granting a request filed by Cook Medical to seal the courtroom during proceedings in the punitive damage phase that involve the company’s net worth. In addition, the transcripts for that proceeding will be redacted.

According to a bench brief (PDF) filed the same day, it appears that Cook Medical intends to put witnesses on the stand during the punitive damages phase to testify that the company is a good corporate citizen and has engaged in positive actions, which Brand’s attorneys argue has nothing to do with the company’s activities in this case.

“Whether good or bad, Cook’s conduct unrelated to the Celect IVC filter and the events which are the subject of this action is irrelevant to the punitive damage inquiry in this case,” the brief states. “The fact that Cook may have made been active in its community or may have made charitable contributions, while commendable, has no bearing upon whether or not Cook acted maliciously or with gross negligence when designing the Celect IVC filter.”

In November 2017, the first Cook IVC filter case to go before a jury resulted in a defense verdict, and the manufacturer was able to convince the Court to grant a summary judgment motion in a second bellwether trial. However, in May 2018, a Texas jury awarded $1.2 million in damages in a claim brought on behalf of a Houston firefighter who had a Cook filter migrate out of position and perforate his aorta.

In addition to cases against Cook Medical, there are also a large number of Bard Recovery filter lawsuits and Bard G2 filter lawsuits pending in a separate MDL, which is centralized before U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell in Arizona.

If Cook and Bard fail to negotiate IVC filter settlements or another resolution for the litigation, large numbers of claims may be remanded back to the U.S. District Courts where they were originally filed for individual trial dates in the future.

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