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The New Jersey Supreme Court has decided to consolidate and centralize all Ethicon Physiomesh lawsuits filed in that state’s courts, transferring the litigation to one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
In addition to several thousand cases pending in the federal court system, Johnson & Johnson and it’s Ethicon subsidiary face more than 1,300 product liability lawsuits in New Jersey state court over the Ethicon Physiomesh Composite Hernia Mesh, each involving similar allegations that design problems caused individuals to experience painful and debilitating complications following a hernia repair, which typically results in the need for revision surgery to remove the mesh within a few years.
Given similar questions of fact and law presented in the hernia mesh lawsuits pending in the federal court system, similar consolidated proceedings have been established before U.S. District Judge Richard Story in the Northern District of Georgia, which is designed to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting rulings from different courts on pretrial matters and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.
In a Notice To the Bar (PDF) issued on August 15, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided to establish similar consolidated proceedings for cases filed in the state court system, which is where Johnson & Johnson’s U.S. headquarters are located.
Known as a multicounty litigation (MCL), the New Jersey consolidation is very similar to what is in place in the federal court system, where it is referred to as an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. The New Jersey lawsuits over Ethicon Physiomesh Composite Hernia Mesh will all be centralized before Superior Court Judge Nelson C. Johnson in Atlantic County.
Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit introduced Physiomesh in March 2010, containing an absorbable film coating on each side of a polypropylene hernia mesh, which was designed to help the patch incorporate into the body and minimize inflammation. However, the hernia mesh was recalled in 2016, after a higher-than-expected number of individuals required revision surgery due to problems with the design.
As lawyers continue to review and file claims for individuals who have experienced complications following hernia repair surgery, the size and scope of the litigation is expected to continue to increase over the coming weeks and months.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings before Judges Story and Johnson, it is expected that a small group of cases will be selected for early trial dates, to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. Following the coordinated proceedings, if Ethicon fails to reach hernia mesh settlements for individuals who had a Physiomesh patch fail, each individual complaint may be transferred back to the court where it originally would have been filed for a future trial date.