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The U.S. District Judge recently appointed to preside over all federal Ethicon Physiomesh lawsuits has scheduled an initial status conference for August 1, at which time lawyers involved in the litigation over complications associated with the hernia mesh will meet to review the coordinated pretrial proceedings for cases filed nationwide.
There are currently more 70 product liability lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson and it’s Ethicon subsidiary in the federal court system, involving claims that individuals suffered painful and debilitating complications after receiving a Physiomesh patch. However, as hernia mesh lawyers continue to investigate and file additional cases over the coming months and years, it is ultimately expected that hundred, if not thousands, of complaints will be brought over design problems associated with the product.
Given the similar questions of fact and law raised in the lawsuits, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established coordinated pretrial proceedings earlier this month, centralizing all Physiomesh cases before 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.
In a court order (PDF) issued on June 21, District Judge Story announced that an initial status conference will be held on August 1. The meeting is expected to address a proposed discovery plan, a suggested schedule for joinder of parties, amendment of pleadings, and the consideration of any Physiomesh class action lawsuits, as well as other pending motions.
Judge Story has called on Ethicon hernia mesh lawyers involved in the litigation to submit a brief, consolidated written statement explaining their understanding of the facts involved in the claims, as well as critical factual and legal issues, by July 25.
In an accompanying order (PDF) issued the same day, the Judge Story also granted a motion to stay and vacate future deadlines and trial settings in other federally filed claims that were established before the Physiomesh MDL, which was requested by the defendants.
The 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.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings before Judge Story, it is expected that a small group of representative cases will be selected for early bellwether trials, to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if hernia mesh settlements or another resolution for the litigation is not reached during the MDL proceedings, each individual case may eventually be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date in the future.