Cook Vena Cava Filter Lawsuits Selected for Bellwether Trials in 2017

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Cook vena cava filter lawsuits has selected three claims that will serve as test trials for hundreds of cases pending nationwide, each involving similar allegations that the devices migrated out of position, puncture internal organs, fractured or caused other problems after being implanted to prevent a pulmonary embolism.

There are currently more than 500 product liability lawsuits pending in the federal court system involving problems with Cook Celect and Cook Gunther Tulip Filters, which are retrievable devices implanted into the vena cava to prevent blood clots from traveling to the lungs and causing a pulmonary embolism.

Given the similar questions of fact and law raised in the litigation, cases filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. The lawsuits are centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young in the Southern District of Indiana to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.

In a court order (PDF) on July 19, Judge Young identified three bellwether trial selections, which expected to be conducted next year to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. While the outcome of these cases will not be binding on other lawsuits, it could help facilitate eventual Cook vena cava filter settlement agreements.

The first case selected to go to trial is a lawsuit filed in October 2014 by Elizabeth Jane Hill, of Florida. According to the complaint (PDF) filed in 2014, Hill had a Cook Celect vena cava filter implanted in November 2010. However, in March 2011 attempts to remove the filter failed and it was determined that the filter could not be removed at that time. However, she began to fall ill and it was eventually determined that the filter had to come out.

“Due to persistent severe gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal Pain Elizabeth Jane Hill underwent an endoscopy procedure where it was determined that Cook filter that had been implanted almost three (3) years earlier had perforated through her inferior vena cava and into her duodenom,” the lawsuit states. “Elizabeth Jane Hill was thereafter to a tertiary hospital, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where her filter was removed; however, there was narrowing at explant site of the inferior vena cava and the bowel.”

Parties involved in Cook IVC filter litigation have begun some settlement discussions. However, if an agreement is not reached in the coming months, the series of bellwether trials is expected to go before juries next year. If the parties fail to settle a large number of cases or otherwise resolve the litigation after these three test cases go before juries, Judge Young may begin remanding cases back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trials.

In addition to cases pending against Cook Medical, a large number of similar Bard IVC filter lawsuits are pending in a separate MDL, which has been centralized before U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell in Arizona for cases involving products manufactured by C.R. Bard. Another series of early bellwether trials are expected in that litigation as well over the next year.

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