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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal hernia mesh lawsuits involving Ethicon Physiomesh has released a trial schedule and case management order confirming the first “bellwether” cases will start going before juries in March.
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 more than 3,200 Ethicon Physiomesh lawsuits pending 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 an order (PDF) issued on January 6, Judge Story identified four cases that have been worked up for trial, indicating a lawsuit filed by Jim and Diane Crumbley will be the first Ethicon Physiomesh to go before a jury starting March 18, 2021.
The trial is expected to last two to three weeks, and will be followed by a second trial set to begin on June 7, 2021, involving a lawsuit filed by Danielle Guffey. The final two cases will go before a jury together starting on September 13, 2021, as a consolidated trial, which is expected to last three to four weeks.
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.