Few subsequent settlements were publicized, but there’s good reason to believe that, as the IVC filter litigation grew, both C.R. Bard and Cook Medical were quietly agreeing to settlements in a number of cases. A number of lawsuits, for example, were apparently dismissed from federal courts, but without the defendant filing a formal motion to dismiss. In earlier litigations, a similar pattern was observed when defendants had begun to settle lawsuits privately.
Why Are DVT & PE Patients Filing Lawsuits?
In their complaints, thousands of American patients say they suffered severe injuries after being implanted with an IVC filter, a medical device designed to “catch” blood clots before they reach the lungs or heart. Instead of performing their intended function, patients claim, IVC filters fail at an incredibly-high rate.
IVC Filter Failure Rates Are “Unacceptable,” Plaintiffs Say
What does “failure” mean in this context? Medical researchers, individual patients and families say IVC filters can break apart inside the vein, allowing fragments of metal to puncture vital organs. In some cases, the filters will pierce the inferior vena cava, the body’s largest artery, creating a risk of internal bleeding. Occasionally, an entire filter will simply detach from its place in the vein, flowing along with the blood toward the heart or lungs.
There is also evidence, documented in peer-reviewed studies, that IVC filter placement can actually increase the risk for deep vein thrombosis, one of the medical conditions the devices were designed to treat. Some implant models, manufactured by C.R. Bard, have even been linked to 50% failure rates. That’s 1 in 2 patients who experience a severe IVC filter complication.
As a result of these studies, along with their own personal experiences, thousands of patients say the IVC filter is an ill-conceived, and wholly-defective, medical device, one that should never have been put on the market. At the least, patients argue, IVC filters should have been recalled after the weight of medical research demonstrated that their risks far outweighed their benefits.
How Multi-District Litigation Encourages Settlement
Guided by experienced federal judges, most Multi-District Litigation proceedings are geared to encourage settlement. The goal, in the minds of most legal experts, is to avoid the significant risks of actual trials, by developing evidence and figuring out how real juries would value each case.
A rough picture of liability emerges, as defendants and plaintiffs come to understand the litigation’s scope (i.e. how many plaintiffs would be able to file suit) and what amount of damages are appropriate and fair. The majority of MDL judges actively push plaintiffs and defendants into settlement negotiations. In practice, everyone wants to cut down on the time and money spent litigating product liability lawsuits. In a broad sense, conducting a series of contentious court trials ends up being more expensive, for everyone involved, than reaching appropriate settlements.
Because MDL proceedings allow for a fair bit of variation between cases (unlike class action, in which all claims must be essentially the same), some parties will push for individual settlement agreements, in which each plaintiff will negotiate their own separate deal with the defendant.
Many MDLs, though, go a different route. In a global settlement, the defendant product manufacturer will offer a set amount of money intended to compensate every plaintiff whose case is consolidated in the litigation.
Global settlements are not simple; they’re highly structured. Most work as a points system, where the severity and nature of a patient’s injury will earn them a set number of points. Other factors can also be worth points; a patient’s state, for example, because their right to recovery could be affected by a statute of limitations. Ultimately, a patient’s point total will correspond to a settlement amount.
In most cases, the defendant will hand administration of the settlement fund over to an independent company. Patients will have to file a claim against the settlement fund to secure their compensation.
Cook Medical & Bard MDLs Head To Trial
The US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has already held three mandatory settlement conferences for the Cook Medical lawsuits. While any developments from these conferences have not been made public, District Judge Richard L. Young has selected three representative cases that will proceed to trial in the coming months.
Bellwether Trial Dates
These initial trials, known in the legal profession as “bellwether” trials, are set to begin on:
- October 23, 2017
- April 30, 2018
- September 10, 2018
In these three opening trials, both plaintiffs and Cook Medical will get the opportunity to air their evidence and arguments before real juries. Those juries will also deliver actual judgments, either choosing to hold Cook accountable or decide in favor of the defendant.
The point, beyond actually trying three lawsuits, is largely to inform ongoing settlement negotiations. Defendants who secure a series of bellwether victories gain leverage in settlement conferences, or might choose to fight each consolidated case in court individually. When plaintiffs win bellwether trials, on the other hand, the patients gain leverage and may be able to demand higher sums of compensation in exchange for dropping their allegations.
A similar process is taking place for C.R. Bard lawsuits in the US District Court of Arizona.
Additional IVC Filter Info