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The judge presiding over more than 50,000 vaginal mesh lawsuits pending in the federal court system has scheduled a combined trial date for October, which will involve 11 different cases brought by women who experienced problems after receiving a Boston Scientific Obtryx sling for repair of stress urinary incontinence (SUI).
U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin is currently overseeing eight different federal multidistrict litigations (MDLs), which have been centralized in the Southern District of West Virginia for product liability lawsuits brought against different manufacturers of vaginal mesh and bladder sling products, including Boston Scientific, Ethicon, American Medical Systems (AMS), C.R. Bard, Coloplast, Cook Medical and Neomedic.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, a small group of cases involving products manufactured by several of the companies have been prepared for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” cases because the outcomes are designed to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation. About one trial date is expected to begin each month before Judge Goodwin this year.
According to a pretrial order (PDF) issued on February 19, a trial scheduled to begin on October 14, 2014 will include eleven Boston Scientific mesh lawsuits brought by different women, which will all go before the same jury. All of the claims were brought by women from West Virginia who experienced complications after receiving the Boston Scientific Obtryx Transobturator Mid-Urethral Sling System, which will involve similar factual allegations.
“All of the plaintiffs allege negligence, design defect, manufacturing defect, failure to warn, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty and punitive damages,” wrote Judge Goodwin in explaining the consolidated trial. “According to plaintiffs, the Obtryx has high malfunction and complication rates, fails to perform as intended and causes severe injuries, including infection, scarring, nerve damage and organ perforation.”
Vaginal Mesh Trials
According to the latest case list (PDF) issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigations, Judge Goodwin is currently presiding over 7,617 Boston Scientific mesh lawsuits, 12,992 Ethicon mesh lawsuits, 13,292 American Medical Systems (AMS) mesh lawsuits, 6,172 Bard Avaulta mesh lawsuits, 1,155 Coloplast mesh lawsuits, 152 Cook Medical mesh lawsuits, and 21 Neomedic mesh lawsuits.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that women experienced complications from bladder sling and vaginal mesh products that were surgically implanted transvaginally for repair of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or female stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Lawsuits claim that the surgical mesh was defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous, carrying a risk of the mesh eroding through the vagina, causing infections and other debilitating injuries.
While the outcomes of these bellwether cases are not binding on other claims, the preparation and outcomes of these early trial dates may facilitate further negotiations to reach vaginal mesh settlements without the need to schedule thousands of individual cases for trial dates throughout the country.
At least five vaginal mesh cases have already gone before juries, with two cases going before state court juries and three cases proceeding to trial in federal court. In July 2012, a California state court jury awarded $5.5 million in damages against C.R. Bard and a New Jersey state court jury awarded $11.1 million in damages against Ethicon in March 2013.
In July 2013, a federal jury awarded $2 million in damages against Bard, including punitive damages designed to punish the manufacturer for their actions surrounding the design and sale of Avaulta pelvic mesh products. A second Bard case settled during the first day of trial for an undisclosed sum.
Earlier this month, trial began before Judge Goodwin involving an Ethicon Gynecare mesh product. However, a defense verdict was entered following the presentation of the plaintiff’s case, granting the manufacturer’s motion for judgment as a matter of law after Judge Goodwin found that insufficient evidence had been presented for the jury to find that a defect in the mesh was the cause of that plaintiff’s injury.
A trial was originally scheduled to begin against Boston Scientific on March 10, involving a case filed by Carol Lynn Fawcett. However, that trial date was cancelled earlier this month.