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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all Cook IVC filter lawsuits pending in the federal court system has rejected a post-trial motion for summary judgment in a bellwether case that resulted in a $3 million verdict last year, but did decide to grant the manufacturers request for a new trial, based on inadmissible evidence that was presented to the jury.
In February 2019, a federal jury in Indiana determined that Cook Medical should be required to pay $3 million in compensatory damages to Tonya Brand, who experienced problems with a Cook Celect IVC filter, which is a small device implanted in the inferior vena cava to prevent blood clots from traveling to the lungs and causing a pulmonary embolism.
At trial, Brand presented allegations similar to those being pursued in more than 6,000 product liability lawsuits filed against Cook Medical over design defects associated with the Cook Celect, Cook Gunther Tulip or other inferior vena cava (IVC) filters, indicating that the devices 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, they 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, Brand’s case was selected as part of a small group of representative claims, that was set for an early trial date last year.
Following the trial, Cook Medical sought to overturn the jury verdict, filing a motion for judgment as a matter of law that argued the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence at trial. In the alternative, the company requests a new trial, arguing that the court erred in allowing evidence that should have been withheld from the jury.
In an order (PDF) issued on January 6, Judge Young denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, rejecting all of the manufacturer’s arguments and finding that there was sufficient evidence that a jury reasonably could have sided with the plaintiff at trial. However, Judge Young agreed with Cook that a new trial was warranted, indicating that some of the evidence involving unrelated patient deaths, which the jury was allowed to see, was wrongfully allowed and prejudicial enough that it may have impacted the outcome.
The outcome of this case and other Cook IVC bellwether trials are being closely watched by parties involved in the litigation, as they 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.
In November 2017, the first Cook IVC filter case to go before a jury resulted in a defense verdict in favor of the manufacturer, and the Court granted a summary judgment motion in a second bellwether case before 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.