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JPML Rejects Centralization of Covidien Mesh Lawsuits

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Although centralized pretrial proceedings have been established in the federal court system for hernia mesh lawsuits filed against a number of different manufacturers, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has rejected a similar request that sought to consolidate all Covidien mesh cases, indicating that there are currently too few cases to justify formal coordination.

Thousands of cases filed throughout the federal court system are currently consolidated in separate multidistrict litigations (MDL) established for Bard polypropylene mesh lawsuits, Ethicon Physiomesh lawsuits and Atrium C-Qur mesh lawsuits, since each litigation involved nearly identical allegations that individuals suffered painful and debilitating hernia mesh complications caused by defective product designs.

While at least 12 different product liability lawsuits have been filed by individuals who received Covidien Parietex and other products manufactured by the Medtronic subsidiary, a panel of federal judges determined this month that informal cooperation and coordination of the actions is sufficient to avoid duplication during pretrial proceedings.

Covidien filed the motion to centralize the hernia mesh cases in June, indicating it expected the number of cases to “balloon” in the coming weeks and months.

However, a number of plaintiffs opposed consolidating the Covidien mesh cases, calling it premature. Plaintiffs also argued that centralizing the cases before one judge would unnecessarily delay proceedings in cases that have already advanced significantly through discovery.

In an Order Denying Transfer (PDF) issued on August 7, the JPML rejected Covidien’s petition, siding with the plaintiffs.

“After considering the arguments of counsel, we are not persuaded that centralization is necessary for the convenience of the parties and witnesses or to further the just and efficient conduct of the litigation at this time,” the panel wrote. “We are not persuaded under the present circumstances that the benefits of centralization outweigh the disruption to the pending actions, some of which have been pending in federal court for two or three years.”

In complex product liability litigation, where a large number of claims are filed throughout the federal court system by individuals who suffered similar injuries as a result of the same or similar products or venues, it is common for the federal court system to centralize the litigation for pretrial proceedings. However, with the JPML decision, the Covidien hernia mesh lawsuits will continue to proceed as individual claims through the federal court system for the time being.

If the number of Covidien mesh cases filed throughout the federal court system increases dramatically, it is likely the U.S. JPML may re-evaluate the decision and consider whether formal centralization is necessary at that time.

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