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Bellwether Trial Selection Continues in IVC Filter MDL

lawyer and jurorsThe multidistrict litigation (MDL) that centralized all federal Cook IVC filter lawsuits has taken another step forward with the identification of the second case to go to trial. More than 900 claims are currently pending in the MDL. They have been consolidated for pre-trial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young is presiding over the MDL.

The purpose of the consolidated proceedings is to streamline the pre-trial discovery process and avoid contradictory rulings across various courts.

After the bellwether trials have concluded, any remaining IVC filter lawsuits that have not been resolved through settlement agreements will be remanded back to their home districts for individual trials. The outcomes of the bellwether trials are not binding upon any of the other pending lawsuits.

Bellwether cases

Judge Young issued a new order on October 17, 2016 that identified plaintiff Arthur Gage, a resident of Illinois, as the second plaintiff scheduled to go to trial. In identifying the Gage case, Judge Young dismissed the plaintiff’s objections to this selection. The plaintiffs had argued that both Gage and the first bellwether case, Hill, involved certain issues that may be favorable for the defendants and that the defendants had originally selected these two cases for the discovery pool.

In his order, Judge Young wrote, “The purpose of selecting bellwether cases for trial is to enhance the settlement prospects of the hundreds of other pending cases involving the Celect and Gunther Tulip filters. To further this end, the court must choose cases that are the most representative of the types of cases at issue in this MDL. Therefore, the court does not consider Hill and Gage to be defense ‘picks’, rather, the court considers them solely as bellwethers.”

Common allegations against defendants

All of the lawsuits pending in the MDL share similar allegations and statements of fact. Gage, who filed his lawsuit in November 2014, noted that he had received the defendants’ Gunther Tulip IVC filter during April 2011. Like other IVC filters, this particular model is surgically inserted into the patient’s inferior vena cava. It is intended to capture blood clots within the blood vessel to prevent them from causing life-threatening complications. However, the plaintiffs claim that the filters are defective because they are allegedly prone to breaking and causing severe health complications.

Gage alleges that he suffered from the onset of shortness of breath and extreme chest pain not long after he received his filter. The lawsuit claims that Gage’s surgeons diagnosed him with perforation of the vena cava by the filter. Normally, revision surgery to remove the filter is the standard course of action in these cases. However, Gage was allegedly informed that, because of the high risk of death during the revision surgery, he was not a good candidate for removal of the filter.

The first bellwether trial, involving plaintiff Elizabeth Jane Hill, was selected in September 2016. Hill’s lawsuit indicates that she had received a Cook Celect IVC filter. Her lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial during October of 2017.

  1. Medscape, Safety and Effectiveness of Inferior Vena Cava Filters Used to Protect Against Pulmonary Embolus: A Technology Assessment,
  2., Inferior Vena Cava Filter Placement and Removal,