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ConsolidatedTransvaginal Mesh Litigation: MDL, Class Action Lawsuits

Transvaginal mesh devices were highly touted when they were first introduced as an effective treatment for pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. However, serious complications associated with the devices were reported and transvaginal mesh litigation began to grow across the country. More than 30,000 plaintiffs have now filed lawsuits against vaginal mesh manufacturers, alleging injuries like erosion of the device, pain, recurrent infections and scarring.

As a result of lawsuits and warnings regarding the risks of the devices issued by the FDA, some transvaginal mesh manufacturers have suspended sales of their devices. C.R. Bard and Ethicon are two companies that have removed specific models of the mesh from the market. However, this move does not help women who have already suffered complications from the Avaulta and Gynecare devices, which have had a negative impact on their health, personal relationships and quality of life overall.

As more vaginal mesh lawsuits are filed, many have been assigned to coordinated litigation for the purpose of streamlining some of the early trial process. Many mesh manufacturers, including American Medical Systems, C.R. Bard and Johnson and Johnson, are facing coordinated proceedings in U.S. District Court. Other litigation is still pending as individual lawsuits in state courtrooms across the country.

Coordination of transvaginal mesh litigation

There are a number of options for plaintiffs looking to file complaints against vaginal mesh manufacturers today. Each type of litigation will vary somewhat in how complaints are coordinated and handled. Attorneys for plaintiffs filing these complaints need to consider the variables involved with each type of litigation to determine the best legal path for their clients. Those variables might include costs for litigation, speed of resolution and potential for a settlement or favorable jury decision.

Choices for individuals looking to file a complaint involving transvaginal mesh might include:

  • Individual Lawsuits – These complaints may be filed in both state and federal court and typically involve a product liability claim from a single plaintiff.
  • Class Action Lawsuit – This type of litigation allows a group of plaintiffs with similar complaints to file a single lawsuit against a common defendant. A lead plaintiff is identified, who represents the interests of all the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Settlements or jury awards are divided evenly among the plaintiffs included in the lawsuit. Class actions benefit the plaintiffs by providing them a low-cost way to pursue legal proceedings against a company. However, they are not particularly common in personal injury cases, since the specifics of each individual personal injury case are unlikely to be similar enough to qualify for this type of coordination.
  • Multi-County Litigation (Mass Tort) – This coordination involves multiple lawsuits with a common complaint and defendant named at the state level. Mass torts streamline some of the legal proceedings, which make it both cost effective and convenient for plaintiffs and defendants alike. Each case is tried on its own merit. Certain cases will be chosen as bellwether trials (early trials) by a panel of plaintiffs and defendants. These preliminary trials help determine how litigation regarding these common questions of fact will be handled in the future. Lawsuits not tried or settled in the mass tort will be remanded back to their original courts for case management.
  • Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) – An MDL is handled in similar fashion to a mass tort, but at the federal level. These coordinations are assigned to U.S. District Courts, where they are overseen by a district judge appointed by a special Judicial Panel on Mutidistrict Litigation. Bellwether trials are also chosen in an MDL, which may provide insight in how future litigation may be handled or set the stage for a settlement proposal. Tag-along cases may continue to be added after the MDL is established. These cases can also be sent back to the original court where they were filed if they do not go to trial or receive a settlement through the MDL.

Current Transvaginal mesh MDLs

Several multidistrict litigations have been ordered and grouped largely according to product manufacturer.

Litigation has been consolidated as follows:

  • American Medical Systems, Inc., MDL No. 2325
  • Ethicon, Inc., MDL No. 2327
  • Boston Scientific, MDL No. 2326
  • C.R. Bard, Inc., MDL No. 2187
  • Coloplast Corporation, MDL No. 2387
  • Cook Medical, Inc., MDL No. 2440
  • Mentor Corporation, MDL No. 2004

American Medical Systems and Ethicon litigation both have the highest number of plaintiffs currently pending, with more than 10,000 plaintiffs in each of these MDLs. The MDL involving Boston Scientific currently has more than 6,000 plaintiffs pending, while the C.R. Bard MDL has more than 4,000 plaintiffs. Coloplast and Cook Medical MDLs both have the smallest number of plaintiffs, with approximately 1,400 and 150 plaintiffs, respectively.

The first six MDLs listed are all assigned to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, where they are being overseen by the Honorable Judge Joseph R. Goodwin. The seventh, involving Mentor Corporation’s Ob Tape Vaginal Sling, is underway in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, where it is presided over by the Honorable Judge Clay D. Land. At the end of 2013, it was reported that five of the defendants involved in MDLs were exploring the possibility of  lawsuit settlement agreements with at least a portion of their plaintiffs.

Examples of transvaginal mesh lawsuits currently underway

Plaintiffs involved in vaginal mesh lawsuits may allege a variety of injuries, from organ perforation to persistent pain and recurrent infections.

Some of the vaginal mesh cases currently pending include:

  • A South Carolina couple filed a lawsuit against Boston Scientific Corp., alleging the company’s vaginal mesh device led to severe and permanent injury for the wife. The plaintiffs are seeking special and compensatory damages to compensate for pain and suffering, past and future medical bills and permanent disability.
  • A Florida couple filed a complaint against multiple manufacturers of vaginal mesh devices, claiming the wife’s injuries have led to significant pain and emotional distress, as well as severe damage to their relationship.
  • A Texas woman filed a lawsuit against American Medical Systems, alleging their product led to her severe pain, infection and bladder injury.