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With a growing number of women nationwide filing lawsuits after a Paragard IUD fractured during removal, centralized pretrial proceedings have been established in the federal court system for the effective management of the litigation.
ParaGard is a copper intrauterine device (IUD), which is implanted into the uterus to provide long-term birth control for up to 10 years. It involves a T-shaped plastic frame wrapped in copper wire coils designed to produce an inflammatory reaction in the uterus, which is toxic to sperm and prevents pregnancy.
While Paragard is intended to be easily removable and allow women to conceive after it is explanted, a number of women have experienced painful and devastating complications when the Paragrad IUD broke upon removal, often resulting in severe internal injuries and the need for a total hysterectomy or other invasive surgical procedure to retrieve fragments of the device.
In September, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion to transfer with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), asking for the cases to be consolidated before one U.S. District Judge, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings. The process is common in complex mass tort litigation, where large numbers of claims allege similar defects and injuries. Coordinate the cases before one judge is designed to help avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts, reducing duplicative discovery into common issues and to serve the convenience of parties, witnesses and the judicial system.
The manufacturers of the device opposed centralization of the Paragard IUD litigation, arguing that it was not a “genuine mass tort” and suggesting that it was manufactured by plaintiffs attorneys advertising for claims.
Following oral arguments heard earlier this month, the JPML issued a transfer order (PDF) this week, confirming that establishing a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) is appropriate, and decided that cases filed throughout the federal court system will all be transferred to U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May in the Northern District of Georgia.
“These actions involve common allegations that the ParaGard intrauterine device (IUD) has a propensity to break upon removal, causing complications and injuries, including surgeries to remove the broken piece of the device, infertility and pain,” the judges wrote. “The actions thus implicate questions concerning the device’s development, manufacture, testing, labeling, and marketing.”
Now that the cases have been centralized as part of an MDL, it is likely Judge May will establish a “bellwether” process, where a small group of representative claims will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout other cases.
While the outcome for these early trials would not be binding on other plaintiffs, they may facilitate ParaGard IUD settlements. which would avoid the need for dozens, or possibly hundreds, of additional trials to be scheduled throughout the federal court system.