Shoulder Chondrolysis Lawsuit Consolidation in New Jersey Being Reviewed

Lawyers have asked that dozens of shoulder pain pump lawsuits pending in New Jersey state court be consolidated before one judge for centralized management.

The request was filed on November 30, 2009, by lawyers representing plaintiffs who have cases pending in New Jersey Superior Court over problems caused by shoulder pain pumps used after arthroscopic surgery. At the time of the request, there were 15 shoulder pump lawsuits already pending in Middlesex County, and at least 16 other cases in federal court that were subject to remand to the state.

To avoid duplicative discovery and inconsistent rulings, the attorneys requested that all cases currently pending, as well as any subsequently filed or remanded from federal court, be centralized before one judge for coordinated management.

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The cases all involve similar allegations that the use of infusion pumps to deliver a combination of pain medications directly into the shoulder joint during the days following arthroscopic surgery caused plaintiffs to suffer progressive destruction of their shoulder cartilage, known as shoulder chondrolysis. This can cause new shoulder problems to develop during the months after surgery, including reduced range of motion, pain, clicking and popping in the shoulder joint, potentially resulting in the need for a shoulder replacement surgery.

The New Jersey Supreme Court posted a notice to the state bar on December 11 regarding the application for centralized management of the shoulder pain pump litigation in the state. The notice indicates that anyone wishing to comment on or object to the application should provide comments to the Acting Administrative Director of the Courts by January 31, 2010.

In addition to the cases pending in New Jersey state court, there are hundreds of other shoulder chondrolysis lawsuits pending against the manufacturers of the pain pumps in other states and federal courts throughout the United States.

A similar request to consolidate all shoulder pump lawsuits in federal court, through a procedure known as a multidistrict litigation (MDL), was denied by a panel of federal judges in August 2008. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation indicated that consolidation of the cases at that time was not appropriate because an indeterminate number of pain pumps made by different companies were at issue.

Since that time, the number of cases pending in federal court has grown, and discovery issues and inconsistent pretrial rulings in cases being handled by different judges have occurred. Last month, lawyers representing plaintiffs with cases in federal court filed a request for reconsideration with the MDL panel, which is expected to be considered later this month at a meeting in Miami.

In New Jersey state court, mass tort treatment may be afforded in complex litigation involving a large number of claims that are associated with a single product, where the cases involve similar issues of fact and law. The centralization process is designed to avoid repetitive and burdensome discovery, avoid inconsistent rulings from different judges in different counties and to promote judicial economy.

Lawyers with New Jersey cases have requested that the state court litigation be centralized in Middlesex County before Judge Jessica Mayer, as she is already involved in several of the pending shoulder pain pump cases and is familiar with issues that may arise during the litigation.

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