Plaintiffs who claim they suffered serious complications from hernia mesh device Physiomesh are asking the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to create a consolidated docket for all current and future cases.
Eighteen cases related to Physiomesh concerns are currently pending across nine federal districts with an untold number of future cases expected in the coming months. According to the March 9 motion for transfer, plaintiffs want all Physiomesh cases to be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida or the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
The plaintiffs gave a few reasons why centralization makes sense for Physiomesh lawsuits, including the fact that it would promote efficiency and serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses involved in the cases.
“Having a single judge preside over the pretrial proceedings in these cases would promote efficiency and economy by avoiding duplicative discovery from similarly situated claimants who have asserted common product liability claims, will prevent potentially inconsistent pretrial rulings regarding factual and legal issues common to all cases, and will help preserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary by eliminating redundancy of effort,” the brief states.
Plaintiffs Blame Complications on Physiomesh Coating
Physiomesh, manufactured and marketed by Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Ethicon, is a flexible mesh made from polypropylene that repairs hernias by providing support to the weakened part of the abdominal wall. The device was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2010 and features a coating meant to minimize inflammation and adhesion.
However, patients treated with the hernia mesh claim that the coating was defective and caused the complications experienced after the repair, including obstruction of bowels, recurrence and additional surgery.
In a lawsuit filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Connie Franklin alleges that the coating caused her to develop complications, such as intestinal obstruction and severe pain. Her lawsuit states that the coating was supposed to help the mesh incorporate into the body but did not.
“Instead, the multi-layer coating prevented adequate incorporation of the mesh into the body and caused or contributed to an intense inflammatory and chronic foreign body response resulting in an adverse tissue reaction including migration and damage to surrounding tissue in the form of sclerotic, granulomatous and/or fibrotic tissue and improper healing,” the lawsuit said.
Florida Court Chosen for Convenience and Accessibility
The plaintiffs asking for the transfer of cases to the Middle District of Florida cite a number of reasons why it makes the most sense.
“From a practical standpoint, the Middle District of Florida is uniquely situated as the appropriate forum to handle these cases because that Court has the most constituent cases filed, and one of the first-filed cases in the country,” the brief states.
The Florida court has the most number of Physiomesh lawsuits at six, including one of the first- filed cases in the country.
Not only does the Middle District of Florida have favorable docket conditions and the resources to manage the litigation but it is also a convenient location for centralization, according to the plaintiffs.
“The majority of the pending constituent cases are filed in district courts in the Southeastern portion of the United States, with 11 of the 18 cases pending in districts in the Southeast,” the plaintiffs argue. “The Southeast is the “center of gravity” for these cases.”
As an alternative, they want the cases to be transferred to the Southern District of Illinois where Judge David Herndon already presides over two cases.
Plaintiffs Expected More Physiomesh Lawsuits
Although only 18 cases are currently pending in federal courts around the country, plaintiffs say that significantly more people could file lawsuits over Physiomesh injuries.
“Upon information and belief, there were more than 330,000 Physiomesh devices sold worldwide, and Plaintiffs believe approximately 50% of those products were sold in the United States,” they said. “It is the expectation of the undersigned that there will be hundreds of additional cases filed in the near future involving these products.”
Over the last few months, several more lawsuits have already been filed.
The first bellwether trial Ethicon will face over claims associated with Physiomesh is scheduled to take place on Jan. 22, 2018, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.