CHARLESTON, W.V. (Legal Newsline) - In 41 years of practice, Robert Salim has never seen anything like the pelvic mesh multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Salim, an attorney with Salim-Beasley LLC in Natchitoches, La., explains that a MDL normally involves one defendant, such as Merck & Co, Inc., in the Vioxx MDL. However, he says, in this particular MDL, there are seven different defendants whose cases have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings before Judge Joseph Goodwin.
The defendants are C.R. Bard, Inc.; American Medical Systems, Inc.; Boston Scientific Corp.; Ethicon, Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson; Coloplast Corp.; Cook Medical, Inc. and Neomedic.
“Judge Goodwin really has had his hands full,” said Salim, the plaintiff’s co-lead counsel in the Coloplast MDL. “This is probably the most complicated MDL in history. Over 80,000 cases have been filed, which means over 25 percent of every civil case in America is in mesh MDLs.”
The pelvic mesh MDL began in October 2010, with the creation of the Bard MDL. It was followed two years later with MDLs involving American Medical Systems, Boston Scientific, Ethicon and Coloplast.
The Cook Medical MDL was created in 2013, the Neomedic MDL in 2014.
Tens of thousands of female plaintiffs have sued the seven companies, claiming that transvaginal mesh products that were intended to treat their stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse were defective and caused severe problems such as organ perforation and bleeding, pelvic pain and infection.
The defendants’ lead counsel could not be reached for this article.
A spokesperson for Ethicon provided this statement: “The company’s focus in the MDL has been working to evaluate and appropriately address the cases that have been filed in order to advance efforts to efficiently manage the litigation.”
Salim, who represents clients in cases against all of the defendants, contends that the number of different products involved in the pelvic mesh MDL makes it even more complex.
“There is not just one product for each defendant,” he said. “Johnson & Johnson has numerous products. Coloplast has numerous products. So the judge has to deal with different defendants and he has to deal with different products, all under the same umbrella.”
The products include Bard’s Avaulta Plus, Ethicon’s Gynecare Prolift and Boston Scientific’s Obtryx pelvic mesh devices.
Karen Beyea-Schroeder, an attorney with Fleming Nolen Jez LLP in Houston and the plaintiff’s co-lead counsel in the Neomedic MDL, adds that the number of cases pending in the pelvic mesh MDL is only “the tip of the iceberg.”
“There are hundreds of women who are implanted with mesh every year,” Beyea-Schroeder said. “If it’s been on the market for more than 10 years, who knows how many women are out there who have problems and don’t realize the mesh is causing the problems.”
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation tracks the number of cases on every MDL docket. Its latest report on Nov. 16 shows the following pending claims and total claims for the seven defendants in the pelvic mesh MDL:
· Bard: 12,257 pending claims; 12,671 total claims
· American Medical Systems: 11,152 pending claims; 19,970 total claims
· Boston Scientific: 18,253 pending claims; 19,179 total claims
· Ethicon: 28,112 pending claims; 29,167 total claims
· Coloplast: 2,121 pending claims; 2,306 total claims
· Cook Medical: 356 pending claims; 455 total claims
· Neomedic: 112 pending claims; 117 total claims
Beyea-Schroeder says that considering the age of the MDL, there have been a surprisingly high number of trials.
She explains that Goodwin initially ordered 200 cases in the Bard MDL to be worked up for trial. He ordered 300 more cases to be worked up last year. In this MDL, as well as the others, he decides whether to remand the cases to state court or try them himself.
The first case went to trial against Bard in California. The plaintiff received a $5.5 million verdict in July 2012. The verdict was affirmed by the appellate court in November 2014.
The plaintiff in a second trial against Bard in West Virginia received a $2 million verdict in August 2013.
The first and second trials against Boston Scientific resulted in defense verdicts in Massachusetts in July and August 2014.
In September 2014, the plaintiff in a trial against Boston Scientific in Texas received a $73 million verdict. It was reduced to $34.6 million under state law.
The next trial against Boston Scientific in Florida resulted in a $26.7 million verdict for four plaintiffs in November 2014.
In the same month, four plaintiffs in a trial against the company in West Virginia received an $18.5 million verdict.
In May, a plaintiff received a $100 million verdict in a trial against Boston Scientific in Delaware. It was reduced to $10 million in October.
Also in October, a trial against Boston Scientific in North Carolina resulted in a defense verdict.
The first trial against Ethicon resulted in an $11.11 million verdict for the plaintiff in New Jersey in February 2013.
In February 2014, a trial against the company in West Virginia resulted in a defense verdict. The appellate court affirmed the verdict in March 2015.
The plaintiff in the next trial against Ethicon in Texas received a $1.2 million verdict in April 2014. The appellate court reversed the verdict in early November.
In September 2014, another plaintiff in a trial against Ethicon in West Virginia received a $3.27 million verdict.
In March, a plaintiff received a $5.7 million verdict in a trial against Ethicon in California.
In October, another trial against the company in Texas resulted in a defense verdict.
“Most people don’t know about all of the different trials,” Beyea-Schroeder said. “There are already 30 cases on the docket for the next year.”
Salim points out that there have also been several settlements in the pelvic mesh MDL. He says Bard, American Medical Systems, Boston Scientific and Coloplast have all settled cases.
“But there have been no Ethicon settlements,” he said. “If you break it down, Johnson & Johnson has 45 percent of all mesh products, so we expect the MDL to go on for quite some time.”