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Judge Plans To Speed Up Vaginal Mesh Lawsuits, Trials

  • Written by: Austin Kirk
  • 2 Comments

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As the number of vaginal mesh lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system continues to increase, with many of the manufacturers of these controversial products making little progress toward settling the claims, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the litigation indicates that he will prepare a large number of cases to be “expeditiously set for trial.”

U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin is currently overseeing seven different federal multidistrict litigations (MDLs), which have been established for similar claims against the various manufacturers of transvaginal mesh or bladder sling products used in recent years during surgical treatment of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or female stress urinary incontinence (SUI).

The first MDL was assigned to Judge Goodwin about four years ago, involving lawsuits filed against C.R. Bard over their Avaulta mesh products. Since that time, additional MDLs have been established for cases involving products made by Ethicon, American Medical Systems (AMS), Boston Scientific, Coloplast Corp, Cook Medical and Neomedic.

There are currently more than 60,000 product liability lawsuits pending before Judge Goodwin, which is more than twelve times the total number of civil trials conducted throughout the entire federal court system each year. Between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013, just over 5,000 cases went to trial, with only about 2,000 involving juries, highlighting the size and scope of the vaginal mesh litigation.

In an order (PDF) issued late last month in the Bard litigation, Judge Goodwin indicated that the unprecedented nature of the lawsuits requires “extraordinary procedures” to move the cases forward.

“To date, C. R. Bard, Inc. (“Bard”) and the plaintiffs in this MDL have made little progress in working towards resolution of this MDL, which was assigned to me in 2010 and now has over 9,000 cases,” wrote Judge Goodwin. “I have conducted multiple status conferences, meetings with counsel, one bellwether trial, ordered the completion of a census sheet, and scheduled other bellwether trials which did not take place. Most recently, I ordered discovery and motion practice in two hundred cases (Wave 1 and 2). Upon completion, I will remand those cases back to their home districts.

“With so little progress to date, I find it necessary to take additional steps in this MDL,” said Judge Goodwin, who stated that a larger third wave of Bard Avaulta cases will now be prepared for trial.

Judge Goodwin indicates that he will order limited pretrial discovery in the Bard Avaulta MDL for this third wave of cases and rule on summary judgment or expert witness challenges, before then remanding the cases back to the U.S. District Courts where they originated, making “every effort” to see that they are “expeditiously set for trial.”

The order came shortly after it was announced that about 500 Bard Avaulta settlements were reached by the manufacturer during the first quarter of this year, which represents only a small portion of the total claims involved in the litigation.

Judge Goodwin also stated that this is the third in what will be a “continuing series of waves,” which will increase pressure on the manufacturer to consider a resolution, or face simultaneous jury trials throughout the country. Other manufacturers may also face similar trial schedules to move the lawsuits forward.

Vaginal Mesh Litigation

According to the latest case list (PDF) issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation on August 15, Judge Goodwin is currently presiding over 9,591 Bard Avault lawsuits, 19,380 Ethicon mesh lawsuits, 18,181 American Medical Systems (AMS) mesh lawsuits, 12,540 Boston Scientific mesh lawsuits, 1,637 Coloplast mesh lawsuits, 247 Cook Medical mesh lawsuits and about 66 Neomedic mesh lawsuits.

All of the claims involve similar allegations that women suffered severe and debilitating complications from vaginal mesh products manufactured by the different companies, where the mesh eroded through the vagina, caused infections or other internal injuries.

The litigation has been centralized before Judge Goodwin to coordinate discovery and pretrial proceedings, so that duplicative discovery is not needed in multiple claims spread throughout the country and to avoid conflicting rulings from different judges on common issues.

As part of the coordinated proceedings, Judge Goodwin has scheduled a series of early trial dates involving many of the manufacturers, known as bellwether trials, which were designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout other cases.

In July 2013, the first in what was supposed to be series of Bard Avaulta trials went before a federal jury, involving a claim filed by Donna Cisson, who alleged that the design and polypropylene material used in the Bard Avaulta Plus led to various injuries, including inflammation, extrusion, erosion, and excessive scarring. Following several weeks of trial, the jury awarded of $2 million in that bellwether case, including punitive damages designed to punish Bard for their actions surrounding the design and sale of the product.

A second trial began in August 2013, involving a lawsuit filed by Wanda Queen. However, the parties reached a confidential agreement to settle the Bard Avaulta case during the first day of trial.

third Bard Avaulta settlement was reached earlier this year, in a case filed by Carolyn Jones, only weeks before the bellwether trial was set to begin.

Additional bellwether trials have been scheduled involving products manufactured by Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon division, Boston Scientific and American Medical Systems.

In February, the first in a series of three Ethicon bellwether trials began before Judge Goodwin, involving a lawsuit filed by Carolyn Lewis. However, that case ended in a defense verdict at the conclusion of the plaintiffs’ case, after Judge Goodwin found that a reasonable jury could not find that she had met her burden of proof. The second federal Ethicon trial is set to begin next week.

A consolidated trial involving 11 different Boston Scientific Obtryx sling lawsuits is set to begin in October before Judge Goodwin. In addition, a second wave of Boston Scientific lawsuits are being prepared for trial as part of a second wave of bellwether cases, which are expected to be trial ready by January 2015.

Earlier this year, a series of bellwether trials involving AMS transvaginal mesh products were cancelled by Judge Goodwin, after parent company Endo Health Systems reached an agreement to pay $830 million to settle the majority of cases involving AMS mesh.

In June, Judge Goodwin said that Coloplast was making good progress toward reaching a settlement that would resolve the 1,500 claims filed against it. The company reportedly settled about 400 cases for $16 million in March.

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2 comments

  1. DOTTIE Reply

    I HAVE HAD A LAWSUIT AGAINST AMS SINCE 2011. MY PROBLEMS BEGAN IMMEDIATELY AFTER HAVING APPOGE SURGERY. MY MESH FAILED AND MY PROLASPE HAD RETURNED LESS THAN 6 MONTHS. I HAD A SECOND SURGERY TO CORRECT THE FIRST ONE AND PARTS OFTHE ARMS OF THE FIRST SURGERY COULD NOT BE REMOVED BECAUSE THEY WERE SO CLOSE TO MY NERVES. ALONG WITH THAT, I HAVE HAD THE SAME SYMPTOMS THAT ALL THE WOMAN ARE HAVING PLUS NOW I HAVE PERMANENT NERVE DAMAGE FROM THE ARMS OF THE FIRST SURGERY. I HAVE PELVIC PAIN DAILY. I SEE A NEUROLOGIST AND I AM ON SEVERAL MEDICATIONS. BEFORE THE FIRST SURGERY I WAS ON 1 MED FOR MY THYROID. MY LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AS I CAN’T EVEN SIT FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME DUE TO PAIN. I HAD A VERY ACTIVE LIFE AND MY EXTENSIVE PROBLEMS THAT ARE NOW LIFE LONG HAS RUINED ALL MY FAVORITE ACTIVITIES. THIS IS AFFECTING MY WORK AS WELL. I WONDER HOW MUCH LONGER I CAN CONTINUE WORKING AS A RN IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM. I HAVE BEEN IN ER FOR 19 YEARS. IT IS NOT FAIR FOR ME TO SUFFER EVERYDAY OF MY LIFE AND SEE THAT PEOPLE ARE GETTING COMPENSATION FOR THEIR PROBLEMS THAT HAVE FILED A CASE WAY AFTER MINE. I FEEL LIKE AMS HAS RUINED MY LIFE. IT HAS CAUSED ME MORE PROBLEMS THAT I DO NOT CARE TO MENTION BUT I WANT THIS OVER WITH FOR ME. I CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHY MY AMS CASE IS NOT BEING LOOKED AT BECAUSE AMS SETTLED WITH SOME OF THEIR CASES. I THINK THAT IS UNFAIR AND I WOULD NEVER SETTLE FOR 40000$. THAT DOESN’T EVEN COVER MY SURGERY PLUS THE MULTIPLE TESTING AND DOCTOR’S VISIT SINCE THIS HAPPENED. I WANT COMPENSATION SOON. I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR YEARS????? WHY???

  2. raeannmessina Reply

    I was offered. A settlement. By a law firm of 120,000. By the time that the settlement took place and I had to sign the settlement. Papers I was awarded 35 thousand. I am the one the had all Sergeys all the pain they got more money. Then me not fair I am In a position. That I had to take it because. I am homeless and disabled and need a place to call home I beleave I was taken advantage of by that law firm to all u women. That has been though this be carefull these law firms are taken these womens money. And pride my life from this mesh thing will never be the same

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