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The U.S. District Judge presiding over thousands of Ethicon hernia mesh lawsuits has identified the four cases selected by the parties for a series of bellwether trials over the recalled Physiomesh design, which are expected to begin in January 2021.
Ethicon Physiomesh was a multi-layered, flexible composite hernia mesh product introduced by Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary in 2010. However, the manufacturer removed the product from the market only six years later, amid a large number of complaints involving complications with the hernia mesh, often resulting in the need for additional surgery to remove it from individuals’ bodies.
There are currently about 2,800 Ethicon Physiomesh lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that the manufacturer sold an unreasonably dangerous and defective product, which caused plaintiffs to suffer severe abdominal pain, infection, hernia recurrence, adhesions, perforations, erosion and other injuries associated with failure of the hernia mesh.
Given similar questions of fact and law, the federal cases are centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Richard Story in the Northern District of Georgia, as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, where a small group of claims will go before juries as early “test” trials, to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the hernia mesh cases.
In a Practice and Procedure Order (PDF) issued on September 11, the Court identified four cases selected by the parties for immediate trial work-up, including lawsuits filed by Jim and Diane Crumbley, James Bovian, Danielle Guffy and Jeffrey Smith.
The complaint (PDF) filed by the Crumbleys was selected by the Plaintiffs for the first trial date, which is scheduled for a final pretrial conference on January 14, 2021, with a two to three week trial expected to begin on January 25.
Jim Crumbley was implanted with Ethicon Physiomesh at a Georgia hospital in July 2014, for repair of an incisional ventral hernia. After the hernia mesh failed, he required anther hernia repair surgery in December 2016, and claims that he has been left with on-going injuries.
From the remaining claims, a second Ethicon hernia mesh case will be selected by the manufacturer by November 11, which will be prepared for the next trial date set to begin on March 29, 2021.
That claim will be followed by a third trial beginning on June 7, 2021, which is expected to involved a consolidated presentation of the two remaining bellwether cases.
While the outcomes of these early “test” trials will not be binding on other plaintiffs, they will be closely watched by lawyers involved in the litigation, and are likely to greatly influence any hernia mesh settlements Ethicon may offer to avoid the need for thousands of individual claims to go before juries nationwide in the coming years.