Philly courts consider request to create mass tort program for transvaginal mesh litigation

Jon Campisi Oct. 14, 2011, 10:05am

Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas is considering the creation of a new mass tort program at the court’s civil trial division to handle transvaginal mesh litigation.

The court, on its website, recently issued a notice to the mass tort bar that Coordinating Judge Sandra Mazer Moss has scheduled a meeting of counsel for later this month to entertain a request to create the new program.

The decision reflects, in part, a rise in the number of lawsuits over the surgically implanted medical product.

According to the website of law firm Motley Rice, nearly 4,000 incidents involving serious complications arising from transvaginal mesh/sling products, also known as pelvic mesh, were reported to the federal Food and Drug Administration between 2005 and 2010.

The website states that injuries or side affects of the implantation of pelvic mesh products can include chronic vaginal drainage, erosion of the vaginal tissue, a protruding sensation originating in the vagina, pain during intercourse, lower back pain, perforations of the bowel, bladder or blood vessels, a feeling of “fullness” in the lower abdomen, urinary problems, vaginal bleeding, vaginal infections and vaginal pain not related to intercourse.

According to a study released this year by the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada, pelvic mesh procedures should be considered experimental “and restricted to use in investigative trials,” at least until “adequate effectiveness and safety evidence is available.”

The FDA warned patients and healthcare providers in July of this year of the various risks associated with the surgical implantation of transvaginal mesh and recommended alternative treatments for conditions such as Pelvic Organ Prolapse, which occurs when the tissues that hold the pelvic organs in place become weakened or stretched, and Stress Urinary Incontinence, which is a leaking of urine during moments of physical activity.

Exactly one year ago, the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled in favor of creating centralized management without mass tort designation for all filed and future complaints involving transvaginal mesh.

In Philadelphia, plaintiff’s lawyers are seeking mass tort status for pelvic mesh litigation because of the increased number of civil complaints they’ve filed as of late at Common Pleas Court.

“There’s not really a magic number, but we need to have probably at least 50 filings to create a new mass tort,” Stanley Thompson, director of the court’s Complex Litigation Center, told the Pennsylvania Record in a brief phone interview Wednesday.

If attorneys are going to be filing numerous cases, it’s generally worth creating a new mass tort program, Thompson said.

Many of the pharmaceutical cases that plaintiff’s firms initiate start off in the major jury program at the court’s civil trial division, Thompson said. Having their own designated mass tort programs simply make these types of cases more efficient and easier to organize, he said.

When Judge Moss holds the conference later this month, she will seek input from both plaintiffs attorneys seeking mass tort status for pelvic mesh cases as well as defense lawyers who may oppose the request, Thompson said.

According to the FDA, pelvic mesh is generally made from porous absorbable or non-absorbable synthetic material or absorbable biologic material. The surgical mesh is permanently implanted to reinforce the weakened vaginal wall.

More News