The federal court overseeing thousands of IVC filter lawsuits filed against Cook Medical, Inc. has ruled on a defense motion seeking to compel discovery and access to a bellwether trial plaintiff’s social media posts.
The motion was filed in a case entitled Hill v. Cook Medical, Inc., et al. (1:14- cv-6016-RLY-TAB), which is soon to go to trial in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana.
Elizabeth Hill, a resident of Florida, claims that she suffered severe pain shortly after being implanted with Cook Medical’s Celect inferior vena cava (IVC) filters. However, doctors were initially unable to remove the device because it punctured a vein and became imbedded in her intestine.
Hill further alleges that she continues to suffer as a result of her IVC filter complications, and accuses Cook Medical of failing to warn patients and doctors about the risks associated with the device.
With trial approaching, Cook Medical was seeking compel Hill to produce her Facebook profile and various posts in native file format, even though she had already produced them in PDF format. The Court declined that request in an Order dated September 15th, finding that Cook Medical would be required to demonstrate why it needed access to the metadata contained in the native file of any particular post.
The defendants were also seeking the plaintiff’s social media log-in credentials, including her passwords. The Court also denied that request, pointing out that the defendants already had access to Hill’s username.
“Much of the parties’ briefing on this interrogatory concerns Plaintiff’s Facebook password, despite the fact that the Cook Defendants did not request it.6 It is axiomatic that the Court cannot compel a response to an interrogatory that does not exist,” the Order notes. “Thus, the Court denies the Cook Defendants’ briefed request for Plaintiff’s password.”
The Court also denied Cook Medical’s request for screenshots of all of the plaintiff’s social media webpages from the date of her implantation with the defendants’ device to the present date.
“If the motion were granted, Plaintiff would have to turn over a screen shot of every private message she sent to anyone on any topic simply because she sent it after implantation,” the Order stated.
However, the Court did grant defendants’ access to social media posts related to Hill’s travel, social activities, medical conditions, and alleged damages.
“In contrast, here the Cook Defendants would be entitled to compel a response to interrogatories asking the same questions, which are aimed, not at overall mental state, but at particular aspects of alleged injuries—e.g. the ability to travel more than two hours or participate in social engagements,” The Order notes. “Therefore, Plaintiff must comply with the request within 14 days.”
Cook Medical has been named a defendant in more than 2,000 IVC filter lawsuits, all of which were filed on behalf of patients who allegedly suffered serious injuries and complications related to the company’s Gunther Tulip and Celect blood clot filters. Both of these retrievable IVC filter products are intended to be implanted in patients at risk for pulmonary embolism, but who cannot be treated with standard blood-thinning medications.
In recent years, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued two safety alerts regarding the use of retrievable IVC filters.
The first was published in August 2010, and disclosed that the agency’s medical device database had logged more than 900 adverse event reports involving retrievable IVC filters, including reports of filter fracture, migration, and embolization.
In May 2014, the FDA reminded doctors to retrieve IVC filters as soon as medically possible to reduce the risk of patient harm.
A study published in 2012 suggest that Cook Medical’s Celect and Gunther Tulip filters exhibited some degree of inferior vena cava perforation in 100% of patients within 71 days of implantation. Full perforation occurred in 86% of observed cases. In 40% of patients, the filters tilted out of position.
Jury selection in Elizabeth Hill’s IVC filter lawsuit is scheduled to begin on October 23, 2017. As a bellwether trial, the verdict in the case could provide some insight into how juries might rule in similar cases involving the Cook Medical Celect blood clot filter.