Morcellator Class Action Lawsuit-Like Centralization Sought for Women Diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma, Other Uterine Cancers
[alert type=”notice” accent_color=”” background_color=”” border_size=”1px” icon=”fa-caret-right” box_shadow=”yes” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””]UPDATE 10/15/2015: The U.S. JPML issued an order (PDF) establishing centralized pretrial proceedings for all morcellator lawsuits filed against Ethicon, which sold the majority of all devices used in recent years. However, the panel declined to establish an industry-wide morcellator MDL.[/alert]Over the past year, a growing number of hysterectomy cancer lawsuits and uterine fibroid cancer lawsuits have been filed by women throughout the U.S., alleging that power morcellators used during their minimally invasive, laparoscopic procedures caused the spread of leiomyosarcoma, endometrial stromal sarcoma or other hidden cancers contained within the uterus.
Last week, a motion was filed with the U.S. JPML seeking to establish centralized pretrial proceedings for all cases pending throughout the federal court system, known as an MDL (multidistrict litigation). While this process is often referred to as a morcellator class action lawsuit, there are important differences between an MDL and class action.
Have You or a Loved One Been Diagnosed With Cancer Following a Laparoscopic Hysterectomy or Uterine Fibroid Surgery?
In complex product liability cases where common allegations of fact and law are raised against manufacturers of similar medical devices, it is common for the federal courts to establish an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
While cases in an MDL are coordinated by one judge during discovery and pretrial proceedings in a manner similar to a class action, each case remains an individual lawsuit where the plaintiff must establish that their injury was caused by the defendant’s negligence or reckless actions.
There are currently about two dozen cases pending in U.S. District Courts nationwide against manufacturers of a medical device known as a power morcellator. However, as lawyers continue to review and file cases for women diagnosed with the spread of cancer due to these devices, it is ultimately expected that several hundred complaints will be filed nationwide.
Laparoscopic Morcellation and Cancer
In recent years, morcellation has been widely used during hysterectomy and myomectomy procedures for women suffering from symptomatic uterine fibroids. The device involves a bladed tube that is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision to cut up the fibroids or uterus, removing the tissue through the port incision.
Despite the popularity of these minimally invasive laparoscopic or robotic uterine fibroid procedures — which provides quicker recovery times, less scarring and a reduced risk of infection — serious concerns have emerged about the risk of cancer from morcellation.
About one out of every 350 women who undergo uterine fibroid surgery may have unsuspected sarcoma, which involves hidden cancers contained within the uterus that doctors are unable to reliably detect or diagnose prior to surgery. Morcellation may cause this cancerous tissue to be spread throughout the abdomen, rapidly upstaging the cancer to a serious and potentially life-threatening state.
In the motion filed with the U.S. JPML this month, a group of plaintiffs asked that cases filed throughout the federal court system be centralized before one judge as part of an MDL, to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting rulings from different courts, and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
Power Morcellator MDL vs. Class Action
Unlike a class action, where all claims would be tried through a class representative, each plaintiff in an MDL will still have the burden of proving that their injury was caused by a power morcellator and establishing the amount of damages to which they are entitled. Since the circumstances surrounding the complications caused by the medical procedures will be different in each case, the claims cannot be judged based on one class representative.
If the U.S. JPML establishes a power morcellator MDL, the cases will be coordinated during discovery and depositions of common fact witnesses for information that applies to all cases. As part of the proceedings, the judge will often select a small group of cases, known as “bellwether” lawsuits, which will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
The outcomes of these early bellwether trials are not binding on other plaintiffs, but may influence eventual morcellation settlement negotiations with the manufacturers.
Following any bellwether trials and the pretrial proceedings, if the manufacturers fail to settle large numbers of cases or otherwise resolve the litigation, each individual case may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date.
The morcellator class action lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. are continuing to review potential claims for women and families throughout the U.S. To determine whether you, a friend or family member may be entitled to pursue a case, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.