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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal IVC filter lawsuits filed against Cook Medical has granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the manufacturer in a bellwether case that was slated to go to trial in June 2020.
Cook Medical currently faces more than 6,000 product liability lawsuits that allege Cook Celect, Cook Gunther Tip, or other inferior vena cava (IVC) filters were defectively designed and are prone to migrate out of position, puncture internal organs, fracture or cause other serious health complications.
Given similar questions of fact and law presented in the claims, the lawsuits have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young in the Southern District of Indiana, as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).
To help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the cases, the court established a “bellwether” program where a small group of representative claims have been prepared for early trial dates.
One of those cases involved claims brought by David McDermitt, who was implanted with a Cook Tulip filter in 2007, after developing a blood clot in his leg. Over ten years later, he brought the claim alleging that the filter had perforated his vena cava, but was too dangerous for doctors to attempt to remove from his body.
That lawsuit was scheduled to go before a jury starting in June, but that has now been canceled.
In an order (PDF) issued on March 31, Judge Young granted Cook Medical’s request for summary judgment, finding that the claim is barred on statute of repose grounds.
Similar to a statute of limitations, a statute of repose is a deadline that limits how long an individual can wait to bring a lawsuit, based on the amount of time after the sale of a product or its first use. A statute of limitations, by contrast, is based on when the plaintiff knew or should have reasonably known that a product caused an injury. Statutes of repose are, generally, over longer periods of time. While a statute of limitations typically runs out in two or three years, statutes of repose can grant a plaintiff about a decade in many states before a case can be time barred because of them.
In McDermitt’s case, his lawsuit was filed in March 2018, more than 10 years after being implanted with the IVC filter. Although McDermitt had no issues with the filter, after he discovered the high rate of problems other individuals were experiencing with the devices, his primary care physician ordered a CT scan, which expert witnesses opined show perforation of four struts and 20 degrees of tilt, making removal of the IVC filter difficult.
Although McDermitt’s attorneys argued that Cook Medical only raised the statute of repose defense after it pushed for the case to be selected as an early bellwether trial, the Court determined that the Plaintiff failed to raise an issue of material fact that effectively countered the Defendant’s statute of repose claims, and granted the motion for summary judgment.
While the outcome of this claim is not binding on any other lawsuits, all of the bellwether cases are being closely watched and may influence any negotiations to reach IVC filter settlements that would avoid the need for hundreds of individual cases to be set for trial nationwide.