Vaginal MeshLawsuits: December, 2011 Update

The vaginal mesh cases are in high gear as we approach the end of 2011. There are a number of litigation battlefields for these product liability cases. Where a particular case ends up depends largely on which company manufactured and distributed the product. Below is a description of the major vaginal mesh/bladder sling litigation:

The most well-known corporation to supply vaginal mesh is Mentor Corp. Federal cases against Mentor were assigned to Judge Clay D. Land in December 2008, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. As of mid-November there were 36 pending actions (MDL – 2004 IN RE: Mentor Corp. ObTape Transobturator Sling Products Liability Litigation).
In November 2011 the required corporate disclosure statements were filed. Those statements didn’t reveal anything new, but affirmed the following:

1. Mentor Corporation merged with Mentor Worldwide LLC as of December, 2009. Mentor Worldwide is owned by Ethicon, Inc. Ethicon, in turn, is completely owned by Johnson & Johnson (you remember them—the family company).

2. C.R. Bard, Inc. has no other corporate affiliations
3. Tissue Science Laboratories Limited is an indirect affiliate of Covidien plc.

Mentor’s defense strategy so far is to blame plaintiffs by suggesting that the problem is a result of age, individual medical history, body type, and history of prior childbirth. They are also blaming plaintiffs’ doctors, suggesting that their data indicates the failure rate is directly related to doctors with less experience.

C.R. Bard, Inc. and Covidien plc are also involved in the vaginal mesh litigation assigned to Judge Joseph R. Goodwin in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia (In Re: Avaulta Pelvic Support Systems Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2187). These cases were consolidated in July, 2010, and are not as far along as the Mentor cases. Yesterday the court entered orders regarding outstanding motions to compel discovery. Plaintiffs sought information about Bard’s testing process. The motion was formally denied, but a compromise was reached allowing extra corporate depositions so plaintiffs could gather the necessary information.

American Medical Systems (AMS) is another manufacturer of vaginal slings. Right now they have approximately 85 federal lawsuits against them, and they recently asked the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate those cases for joint discovery and early trials. In November 2011 they requested that all federal cases be sent to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. The case is In Re: AMS Vaginal Surgical Mesh Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2325).
Cases pending in New Jersey are not formally part of the MDL, but the state has established its own mini-consolidation of vaginal mesh cases, overseen by Judge Carol E. Higbee. These cases are moving apace, and preliminary discovery is set to finalize by the end of March, with initial bellwether settlement trials to begin in November, 2012.