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With the first federal bellwether trial set to begin early next year out of thousands of Bard hernia mesh lawsuits, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the litigation has issued pretrial rulings on motions to limit the evidence and testimony that can be presented to the jury in the closely watched claim.
C.R. Bard currently faces more than 8,000 product liability claims brought throughout the federal court system, each involving similar claims that plaintiffs suffered painful and debilitating complications due to defective polypropylene mesh products sold in recent years, including Bard Ventralight, Bard Ventralex, Bard Perfix, Bard 3DMax and other similar mesh systems.
Plaintiffs allege the design problems with the polypropylene mesh caused them to experience severe abdominal pain, infections, adhesions, erosion and other complications that often result in the need for additional surgery to remove the failed hernia patch.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in the complaints, the federal litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus in the Southern District of Ohio for the past few years, where the parties have engaged in coordinated discovery in preparation for a series of early trial dates, which are intended to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims.
Following several delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the first bellwether trial is currently expected to begin in January 2021, involving a lawsuit filed by Steven Johns, who suffered complications from Bard Ventralight ST mesh.
While the outcome of the trial will not be binding on other plaintiffs, it is expected to signal how thousands of other claims may fare in the coming years, and may greatly influence any hernia mesh settlement negotiations if Bard wants to avoid individual trials in courts nationwide.
In a pretrial ruling (PDF) issued on November 3, Judge Sargus issued an opinion and ruling on various Motions in Limine, which were filed by both plaintiffs and defendants to exclude certain evidence or testimony that may be prejudicial or irrelevant. It is typically one of the last matters addressed before a case proceeds to trial, and may shape the information presented to the jury.
While the Johns trial was previously expected to begin in May 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the United States, the start of that bellwether case was postponed until September 29, 2020. However, following a recent status conference, the parties and Court agreed it is necessary to delay the trial date again, and it is now expected to begin in January 2021.
A series of additional bellwether trials are expected to be held in the months that follow, involving claims over problems with other types of Bard mesh. However, if the manufacturer does not settle the remaining hernia mesh cases or otherwise resolve the litigation, thousands of individual cases may later be remanded to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual jury trials in the coming months and years.