It’s not often that a federal judge urges a defendant to settle cases. But a judge with tens of thousands of cases in his court, a judge with the largest MDL in the history of MDL courts, might be granted some leeway for taking unprecedented action. According to Bloomberg.com, at a Dec. 9 hearing in Charleston, W. Va., U.S. district Judge Joseph Goodwin urged transvaginal mesh maker C.R. Bard to settle its injury cases with the thousands of women suing the company for mesh-related injuries.
“I find it to be a material fact that five different state forums have, on average, returned verdicts of over a million dollars per plaintiff,” Judge Goodwin said. He has also expressed frustration with the pace of settlement talks. He noted some cases have been pending for five years.
“I can’t imagine a corporation facing potentially billions of dollars in verdicts wouldn’t find it advisable to try to achieve a settlement for a much lesser sum,” the judge in charge of the multi-district litigation court (MDL) said. “I base that billions of dollars of business on some of the rather large verdicts that we’ve had.”
Judge Goodwin referenced the several multi-million-dollar verdicts that have been reached against many different transvaginal mesh implant device manufacturers. He noted those many large verdicts should provide incentive for Bard to resolve its cases by 2015. C.R. Bard faces more than 12,000 cases.
Device maker Endo International agreed to pay more than $1.3 billion to resolve most of the estimated 30,000 mesh lawsuits brought against the company.
In November, federal juries in Fla. and W. Va. ordered Boston Scientific to pay $45.2 million in damages to eight women, or more than $5 million to each woman. In September, a Texas state court jury ordered Boston Scientific to pay $73 million in damages to one woman (represented by Houston attorney David Matthews), and in that same week a W. Va. jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $3.27 million to another woman. In August 2014, a federal jury in W. Va. ordered C.R. Bard to pay a woman $2 million in damages over her vaginal-mesh injuries.
Judge Goodwin, who oversees all of the federal litigation involving the mesh implants, told C.R. Bard executives they are risking Bard’s future by not resolving pending litigation. Carl Tobias, product liability law professor at the University of Richmond told Bloomberg.com: “Bard has to take this very seriously because the judge is saying these cases could expose it to the kind of liability that could be the end of the company and result in a bankruptcy filing. It’s very rare for a federal judge to warn shareholders about the consequences of management failing to resolve lawsuits.”
C.R. Bard agreed in Oct. 2014 to settle 500 lawsuits for $21 million. In filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Bard also said that it faces significant financial exposure over the claims; more than 12,400 vaginal mesh lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts, according to Bloomberg.
The FDA previously ordered a number of device makers, including C.R. Bard, Johnson & Johnson, and Boston Scientific Corp, to study rates of organ damage and complications associated with the devices following increasing injury reports and mounting lawsuits. The agency also said the devices should be subject to stronger safety requirements.
At a hearing for 500 cases being prepped for trial, Judge Goodwin said C.R. Bard officials should be concerned given the recent jury awards against vaginal mesh implant makers.
“If I were a stockholder of any of these companies, I would be materially interested in the fact that there have been multiple million-dollar verdicts for individual plaintiffs,” Judge Goodwin said at the hearing. The judge also said he was surprised investors have not put more pressure on device maker officials.