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Lawyers are scheduled to present oral arguments this week to a panel of federal judges over whether all product liability lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country over problems with Mirena IUD birth control should be consolidated for pretrial proceedings before one judge.
A growing number of Mirena IUD lawsuits have been filed on behalf of women who raise similar allegations that the small, T-shaped birth control device perforated their uterus, migrated to other areas of their body, caused infections or other problems.
In January, a motion was filed to consolidate and centralize the Mirena litigation as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, where all cases filed in the federal court system would be transferred to one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
In a response filed last month, lawyers for Bayer, the manufacturer of the Mirena IUD, opposed the centralization, arguing that it would prejudice their defense of the safety of the IUD and increase the filing of “marginal” claims.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has scheduled (PDF) for Mirena lawyers involved the cases to present oral arguments on Thursday, at a hearing that will be held in San Diego, California.
Common Allegations of Mirena IUD Migration, Perforation
Mirena is an intra-uterine device (IUD), which is implanted into the uterus in to provide long-term birth control.
While the IUD has been promoted as a safe and effective alternative to the daily birth control pill, a growing number of women allege that Bayer failed to provide adequate warnings about the risk of Mirena complications, where the device may “spontaneously” perforate the uterus long after it is inserted and travel to other parts of the body.
All of the lawsuits involve similar allegations that the Mirena migrated out of place and was found elsewhere in the abdominal cavity, often after puncturing internal organs or causing severe infections. This may result in the need for surgical removal of the Mirena IUD.
Lawyers representing women who have brought claims argue that centralizing the cases before one judge will help reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and serve the convenience of witnesses, parties and the courts.
Such consolidation is common in complex pharmaceutical litigation where a large number of claims are brought involving the same or similar products, and Mirena lawyers investigating claims have suggested that hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits are likely to be filed against Bayer in federal courts over the coming months.
Several plaintiffs have requested that the cases be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio for pretrial proceedings, where the claims can be coordinated in a manner similar to how a class action lawsuit for Mirena would be managed.
However, while the cases are centralized, each lawsuit remains an individual claim and if a Mirena settlement agreement or other resolution is not reached following the MDL proceedings, each case would be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date.
Bayer Opposes Consolidation of Mirena Lawsuits
Bayer is expected to argue at the hearing later this week that the Mirena litigation does not involve sufficiently common issues of fact and law to require centralized management, suggesting that the cases will be dominated by individual facts.
The drug maker has maintained that the Mirena warning label already provides information about the risk of perforation, so there is no need for extensive discovery about their knowledge about the risk of this complication from Mirena.
While the Mirena warning label does include information on the risk of perforation, plaintiffs argue that the language suggests that these problems only occur during insertion and that the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk of spontaneous migration, which may occur long after Mirena insertion.
Many of the lawsuits allege that severe problems from Mirena could have been avoided if more detailed and accurate warnings had been provided, as women would have been more aware of the risk that the IUD could move long after it is inserted, seeking medical attention earlier and avoiding complications where the device migrates out of the uterus and causes other damage.