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The New Jersey Supreme Court has been asked to consolidate all Allergan Biocell breast implant lawsuits before one state judge for pretrial proceedings involving claims that recalled implants with a textured design increase the risk of cancer.
Following a nationwide Allergan breast implant recall issued last year, a growing number of women are now pursuing claims against the manufacturer, alleging that the design may cause the development of a rare type of cancer in the tissue surrounding the implant, which is now known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).
While many of the cases are filed in the federal court system, at least six complaints have been filed in New Jersey state court, where the manufacturer’s U.S. headquarters are located. In addition, as breast implant product liability lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming months, additional claims are expected to be brought in the state.
On February 13, Glenn A. Grant, the Acting Administrative Director for New Jersey state courts issued a Notice to the Bar (PDF), announcing that the New Jersey Supreme Court has received an application from several plaintiffs who have filed cases in that state, seeking to establish a multicounty litigation (MCL) in Bergen County, and centralize all current and future claims before one judge.
Plaintiffs noted in a letter attached to the notice that the federal Allergan Biocell litigation has already been centralized in New Jersey, where the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided last month to consolidate claims brought nationwide before U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti in the District of New Jersey.
Centralization of the claims is intended to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting pretrial schedules from different judges and serve the convenience of the common parties, witnesses and the judicial system.
Allergan Breast Implant Recalls
The litigation has emerged after an Allergan Biocell breast implant recall was issued in July 2019, in response to an FDA determination that nearly all cases of BIA-ALCL have been linked to this one type of device.
Over the past few years, there have been concerns about the link between textured breast implants and cancer that may develop in the tissue surrounding certain types of implants.
According to data released by the FDA over the summer, at least 573 known cases of breast implant ALCL have been diagnosed worldwide, including at least 33 deaths. Of those, 481 have been linked to breast implants sold by Allergan, which have been involved in at least 12 of the 13 deaths where the manufacturer of the breast implant was known.
Since the recall, there has been a sharp rise in the number of lawsuits filed against Allergan over the breast implants, each raising similar allegations that the textured design was unreasonably dangerous and defective.
If consolidated before one judge, the New Jersey cases would work like a federal multidistrict litigation, but at the state level only. All of the cases would remain individual lawsuits and the judge would likely schedule a series of early test trials known as bellwether cases. If no Allergan breast implant settlements can be reached, the cases would be tried as individual claims in New Jersey state courts.