By Doug Allen
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A company at the center of thousands of lawsuits regarding its transvaginal mesh devices settled with a plaintiff today just moments before trial proceedings were set to begin. The trial was supposed to be one of four “bellwether” federal lawsuits of more than 26,000 consolidated in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The jury of five men and four women, chosen Monday, were thanked for their time and sent home before 10 a.m. EDT today.
In Queen v. C.R. Bard Inc., plaintiffs Wanda and Greg Queen alleged an Avaulta Solo device caused permanent injury, pain and suffering, and will require one or more surgeries to remove, after it was implanted to treat pelvic organ prolapse. Mr. Queen also sued for loss of consortium related to his wife’s injuries.
Laura Yaeger, who is part of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the federal mesh cases, told Drugwatch: “As with any verdict or settlement, it may set the tone for other pending cases and might be an indication of the manufacturers’ willingness to settle cases instead of going to trial again and again.
“However, it is important to remember that each case has its own individual set of facts and injuries that affect any potential outcome.”
Trial Delayed for Private Meeting
Just before 9 a.m. today, observers in the court witnessed attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendant, as well as the plaintiffs themselves and representatives from Bard, walk into Judge Joseph R. Goodwin’s chambers to speak privately. About 30 minutes later, they all emerged and Mrs. Queen tearfully hugged several of her attorneys.
Once the jury was called into the courtroom, the judge explained that the parties in the lawsuit had reached a settlement and the jurors were excused. Attorneys for both sides, as well as the plaintiffs and defendants, refused to comment on the settlement.
On Tuesday, observers in the courthouse speculated that a settlement might be in the works as attorneys for both sides met with the judge in closed-door sessions, while a notation on the courthouse schedule for the day indicated the parties were in “mediation.”
$2M Verdict Against Bard
The settlement comes just days after a jury found Bard liable for another patient’s injuries and awarded her $2 million. After the verdict, Greg Dadika, Bard’s associate general counsel for litigation, told Drugwatch.com they planned to appeal it.
“We will appeal and continue to rigorously defend against all of the lawsuits regarding this product,” he said after the verdict.
Today’s settlement belies that statement, but it’s unclear how it will affect the thousands of other cases against Bard related to its transvaginal mesh devices.
The next case against Bard is scheduled to begin Oct. 8 in the same courtroom, although it’s unclear if the schedule will change after today’s settlement. With one loss in state court, one loss in federal court and one settlement in federal court, Bard executives were mostly silent today about their plans to resolve thousands of cases pending against them.
Scott Lowry, a Bard spokesman, told Bloomberg that today’s accord covers only Queen’s claims and isn’t part of a larger resolution.
“This is a large, complex litigation, and Bard will consider each case based on the facts and merits,” Lowry said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg. “We will continue to vigorously defend against all other lawsuits involving Avaulta.”
To date, Bard has been ordered to pay a total of more than $5 million to two plaintiffs, not counting the confidential settlement with the Queens. More than 3,000 federal cases remain pending against Bard, plus state cases.
Last month, American Medical Systems, another company facing lawsuits over its transvaginal mesh products, settled with an unknown number of plaintiffs for $54.5 million. That company faced more than 6,000 lawsuits, and SEC filings from last year indicate it expects total liability for the mesh devices to exceed $160 million.
More than 26,000 complaints over the mesh devices have been consolidated as multidistrict litigation. Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon, Coloplast and Cook Medical also face similar suits. Last week’s verdict against Bard and today’s settlement could be indicators of what will happen with the remaining cases.
Doug Allen is a freelance reporter based in Aspen, Colo. His work has appeared in local and national print and radio outlets, including The Washington Post and Aspen Public Radio.