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Ethicon Physiomesh Lawsuits Consolidated In Federal Multidistrict Litigation

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With a growing number of hernia mesh lawsuits being filed throughout the federal court involving painful and debilitating problems from Ethicon Physiomesh, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has decided to centralized the cases before one judge coordinated pretrial proceedings.

There are currently at least 70 product liability lawsuits pending in 36 different U.S. District Courts against Johnson & Johnson and it’s Ethicon subsidiary, each involving similar claims that individuals suffered recurrent hernias, adhesions, perforations. allergic reactions and other complications after a Physiomesh patch was implanted during hernia repair surgery in recent years.

Ethicon Physiomesh was introduced in March 2010, containing an absorbable film coating on each side of a polypropylene mesh, which was designed to help the patch incorporate into the body and minimize inflammation. However, the hernia mesh was recalled last year, after a higher-than-expected number of individuals required revision surgery due to problems with the design.

Given the similar questions of fact and law presented, a group of plaintiffs filed a request earlier this year to centralize all Ethicon Physiomesh cases pending in the federal court system, seeking to transfer the claims for coordinated discovery and bellwether trials, as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

Although Ethicon opposed the request at a hearing last month, arguing that each of the claims will be too individualized to justify coordinated proceedings, the U.S. JPML issued a transfer order (PDF) last week, assigning the litigation to U.S. District Judge Richard Story in the Northern District of Georgia to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid contradictory pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

“All of the actions share common factual questions arising out of allegations that defects in defendants’ Physiomesh hernia mesh can lead to complications when implanted in patients, including herniation through the mesh, recurrent hernia formation and/or rupture, and deformation of the mesh,” according to the order issued on June 2. “Many plaintiffs more specifically allege that the multi-layer coating in Physiomesh prevented adequate incorporation oft he mesh and caused or contributed to a variety of serious complications, and that the polypropylene mesh portion of the Physiomesh was insufficient to withstand normal abdominal forces.”

As product liability lawyers continue to review additional cases for individuals have have experienced hernia mesh complications, it is expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of cases may be transferred to the Ethicon Physiomesh MDL in the coming months and years. However, if the parties fail to reach hernia mesh settlements or another resolution for the litigation following the MDL proceedings, each case may ultimately be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date in the future.

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