Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi, who is presiding over the consolidated Kugel hernia mesh lawsuits that have been centralized in an MDL (Multidistrict Litigation) in the District of Rhode Island, has indicated that the first of four “bellwether” trials will begin in March 2010.
According to a Case Management Order issued last week, the first trial will be followed by additional trial dates in April 2010, July 2010 and September 2010.
More than 1,000 Kugel mesh lawsuits have been transferred to Judge Lisi’s court for coordinated handling during pretrial litigation. All of the cases involve hernia patches manufactured by Davol, Inc., a subsidiary of C.R. Bard, Inc. which allegedly contain design defects that caused plaintiffs to suffer severe injuries and potentially life-threatening complications after hernia repair surgery.
Three separate Kugel patch recalls were issued between December 2005 and January 2007 for different types of the hernia mesh. The litigation also involves non-recalled patches that use a similar dual-mesh technology which has been associated with problems like intestinal pain, bowel perforation, intestinal fistula and additional surgery to remove the mesh.
The Kugel MDL was formed two years ago under a rule that allows similar lawsuits filed in different federal district courts throughout the United States to be transferred to one district for handling during pretrial litigation. As of the beginning of July, at least 1,038 Kugel lawsuits have been transferred to the District of Rhode Island since the MDL was assigned to Judge Lisi. There are also a number of similar lawsuits over the hernia mesh pending in state court.
The series of early trials in the MDL are known as “bellwether” cases, and they are designed to be representative of issues that will be presented to juries throughout other cases in the litigation.
Fact discovery for the first two cases is scheduled to be complete by December 15, with a case for plaintiff John Whitfield scheduled to commence in March 2010 and the trial of a case involving plaintiff Christopher Thorpe set to begin in April 2010. The third and fourth cases, involving Vivian Bruce and Bridget McElhatton, will complete fact discovery by May 24, 2010, with trials commencing in July 2010 and September 2010 respectively.
In the pretrial order issued July 24, Judge Lisi indicated that the parties should make every effort to settle the cases before jurors are summoned and empanelled, warning that costs may be assessed if the court determines that lateness of settlement was due to “unreasonable or vexatious conduct or neglect.”