The federal court overseeing thousands of hernia mesh lawsuits involving Ethicon Inc.’s Physiomesh Flexible Composite Mesh products has suspended all proceedings that require in-person interaction due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
According to an Order issued in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia, those proceedings include depositions and anything that necessitates travel. However, litigation activities that do not require in-person interaction will continue to the extent possible.
“The Court will conduct regular telephone status conferences with Lead Counsel to determine when it is safe and appropriate to lift this suspension and resume normal litigation activities,” the Order concludes.
There are currently more than 2,660 Physiomesh lawsuits undergoing coordinated discovery and other pretrial proceedings in the Northern District of Georgia. The multidistrict litigation is just one of many legal proceedings across the United States that have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic of novel coronavirus.
Ethicon withdrew Physiomesh Flexible Composite mesh products from the global market in March 2016, after data from two European registries indicated the implants were associated with a high rate of hernia recurrence and revision surgery when used in laparoscopic ventral hernia repair.
These specific Physiomesh devices feature a unique multi-layer design made from a non-absorbable polypropylene netting sandwiched and laminated between two layers of Monocryl (poliglecaprone). But while Ethicon asserts this configuration facilitates incorporation into the body, minimizes inflammation and adhesions, and results in faster healing, plaintiffs claim Physiomesh Flexible Composite mesh is biologically incompatible with human tissue and actually promotes the development of bowel obstructions, infections, hernia recurrence, and other dangerous complications.
The federal Physiomesh litigation is scheduled to convene its first bellwether trial in June 2020. Right now, it’s not clear if the COVID-19 outbreak will result in postponement of that trial or how it may affect the proceeding’s overall trial schedule. Once trials are able to get underway, verdicts in these bellwether cases could provide valuable insight into how other juries might decide similar Physiomesh lawsuits.