Just days after a group of power morcellator lawsuit plaintiffs sought consolidation of all such federal claims in a single court, several defendants have voiced opposition to their plan. Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary, Karl Storz, Richard Wolf Medical Instruments, and Gyrus ACMI all contend that the creation of a multidistrict litigation is inappropriate at this time.
So far, at least 22 federal product liability lawsuits have been filed on behalf of women who allegedly experienced the spread and upstaging of uterine cancers due to the use of power morcellators in gynecological surgeries. On July 6th, a half dozen of those plaintiffs filed a Motion for Transfer with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPL) asking that the cases be consolidated in a single jurisdiction for the purposes of coordinated pretrial proceedings. They assert that the docket would benefit from consolidation, as the currently filed cases involve a number of common questions of fact, and they note that additional morcellator claims are expected to be filed in the near future.
In responses filed with the JPML just four days later, Ethicon, Karl Storz, Richard Wolf, and Gyrus all maintain that there are too few cases and too many different products involved to justify consolidation. Ethicon also urged the panel to reject the possibility of establishing separate multidistrict litigations for each individual device manufacturer.
Plaintiffs who have filed power morcellator lawsuits accuse the above-named companies of failing to warn patients that the devices can spread undetected uterine cancer cells when they are used to carve up tissue during minimally invasive hysterectomies and myomectomies (fibroid removal surgery). Plaintiffs further assert that dissemination of such cancers cells causes the malignancy to quickly progress to its most advanced stage, greatly reducing a woman’s chance’s of long-term survival.
Since April 2014, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued two public communications regarding the cancer risks associated with uterine morcellation. The most recent, which was released last November, specifically warned against the use of power morcellators in the majority of women who require hysterectomies and myomectomies. According to the agency, the prevalence of unsuspected uterine sarcoma in patients undergoing surgery for fibroids is 1 in 352, while the prevalence of unsuspected uterine leiomyosarcoma is 1 in 498. Both of these estimates are higher than the clinical community previously understood.