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Ethicon Physiomesh Trial Set To Begin July 20, 2020 in Federal MDL

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The first bellwether trial problems with Ethicon Physiomesh has been pushed back to July 2020, according to the U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal product liability lawsuit filed over the recalled hernia patch.

Ethicon Physiomesh is a multi-layered, flexible composite hernia mesh product introduced by Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary in 2010. However, the manufacturer removed the product from the market only six years later, amid a large number of complaints involving complications with the hernia mesh, often resulting in the need for additional surgery to remove it from individuals’ bodies.

There are currently more than 2,500 Ethicon Physiomesh lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system, each raising similar allegations that the manufacturer sold a defective and unreasonably dangerous product, which caused plaintiffs to suffer severe abdominal pain, infection, hernia recurrence, adhesions, perforations, erosion and other injuries associated with a hernia mesh failure.

Given similar questions of fact and law, the federal cases are centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Richard Story in the Northern District of Georgia, as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

In an amended practice and procedure order (PDF) issued earlier this month, Judge Story set the first trial for July 20, 2020, delaying the start of the first case that will go before a jury, which was originally set to begin in April 2020.

Earlier this year, parties selected 10 lawsuits to serve as trial pool cases, and expert discovery must be completed by February 28, 2020, according to a scheduling order. By March 9, the court is expected to determine the manner of trial, how plaintiffs will be selected and the timing of additional bellwether trials.

While the outcomes of these early “test” cases will not be binding on other plaintiffs, they will be closely watched by lawyers involved in the litigation, and are designed to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation. The outcome may also greatly influence any eventually hernia mesh settlements Ethicon may offer to avoid the need for thousands of individual claims to go before juries nationwide.

As individuals who received an Ethicon Physiomesh implant continue to experience problems and file lawsuits, the size of the litigation is expected to continue to increase over the coming months and years. However, if Johnson & Johnson and it’s Ethicon unit fail to settle claims or otherwise resolve the litigation, each individual claim pending before Judge Story may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed, for a separate trial date.

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