Covidien Hernia Mesh Lawsuits: A 2024 Mid-Year Update

Key Updates

  • Over 6,000 hernia mesh claims are filed against Covidien in Massachusetts state court.
  • A federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) has been established in the District of Massachusetts.
  • As of December 2023, 869 cases were pending in the federal MDL.
  • The litigation is in the discovery phase, with nearly 2 million documents produced.
  • Depositions of corporate witnesses are ongoing, many taking place in Brussels.
  • The discovery deadline in the Covidien MDL is set for the end of 2024.
  • The first bellwether trials are expected to begin in 2025.
  • Depending on case specifics, potential individual settlements are estimated to range from $40,000 to over $500,000.
  • New lawsuits, including a recent case involving the Symbotex Composite Mesh, continue to be filed.

Covidien, a Medtronic subsidiary, is facing thousands of lawsuits related to its hernia mesh products. These lawsuits allege that various Covidien hernia mesh devices, including the Parietex line, are defectively designed and have caused significant harm to patients. The ongoing litigation involves multiple jurisdictions, including state and federal courts.

Covidien Hernia Mesh Products Involved in the Lawsuits

The following Covidien hernia mesh products have been named in lawsuits and associated with complications:

  1. Parietex Composite (PCO) Mesh
  2. Parietex ProGrip Self-Fixating Mesh
  3. Parietex Optimized Composite Mesh
  4. Parietex Plug and Patch System
  5. Parietex Composite Open Skirt Mesh
  6. Parietex Optimized Open Skirt Mesh
  7. Parietex Composite Parastomal Mesh
  8. Parietex Lightweight Monofilament Mesh
  9. Symbotex Composite Mesh
  10. Parietene Mesh (polypropylene mesh line)

These products are primarily made from polyester or polypropylene materials. The Parietex line, in particular, has been the focus of many lawsuits. Patients allege these meshes have caused complications such as chronic pain, infections, mesh migration, adhesions, and the need for revision surgeries.

It’s important to note that while these products have been associated with complications and lawsuits, not all of them have been recalled by the FDA or the manufacturer. The litigation primarily focuses on alleged design defects, manufacturing issues, and failure to adequately warn patients and healthcare providers about potential risks.

Consolidation and Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

In June 2022, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided to consolidate the federal Covidien hernia mesh lawsuits into a single MDL in the District of Massachusetts, where Covidien is headquartered. This decision was influenced by the increasing number of plaintiffs and the similarity of the cases. Judge Patti B. Saris has been appointed to oversee the MDL proceedings.

Here’s an overview of how the number of Covidien hernia mesh lawsuits has evolved over the years:

Early 2020: There were over 150 combined state and federal cases against Covidien. At this point, Covidien requested centralization into an MDL, which was denied in August 2020 due to the relatively low number of federal cases (only 12 in 9 districts).

Mid-2022: The number of lawsuits had grown significantly:

  • Over 80 federal lawsuits across 10 districts
  • More than 4,700 state lawsuits in Massachusetts courts

June 2022: Due to this significant increase, the JPML agreed to centralize the federal cases into MDL No. 3029 in the District of Massachusetts.

October 2022: Reports indicated about 170 Covidien hernia mesh lawsuits pending in federal courts and another 5,700 cases pending in Massachusetts state courts.

December 2022: There were 156 cases pending in federal courts against Covidien.

December 2023: The number of pending Covidien hernia mesh lawsuits in the federal MDL had grown to 869 cases.

Current estimates (as of 2024): Sources suggest that over 6,000 hernia mesh claims have been filed against Covidien just in Massachusetts state court.

This data shows a clear trend of significant growth in the number of lawsuits against Covidien over the past few years, with a particularly large increase in state court filings in Massachusetts. The federal MDL has also seen steady growth since its formation in 2022.

Recent Developments in the Covidien Hernia Mesh Litigation

As of June 2024, over 6,000 hernia mesh claims had been filed against Covidien in Massachusetts state court, where the company is headquartered. Additionally, a federal MDL has been established in the District of Massachusetts, consolidating Covidien hernia mesh lawsuits from across the country.

The litigation is currently in the discovery phase, with nearly 2 million documents produced regarding Covidien’s hernia mesh products. Depositions of corporate witnesses have begun, many taking place in Brussels due to the European design and development of most Covidien meshes sold in the United States.

The discovery deadline in the Covidien MDL is set for the end of 2024, after which expert reports will be due. The first bellwether trials are expected to begin in 2025, which will provide important insights into how juries may respond to the evidence and arguments presented in these cases.

State Court Covidien Actions

In addition to the federal MDL, significant numbers of Covidien hernia mesh lawsuits are pending in state courts. Massachusetts state court, where Covidien is based, has over 6,000 cases, primarily involving multifilament and monofilament polyester hernia meshes. Minnesota state court also has ongoing litigation, which includes polypropylene-based hernia meshes.

Key Allegations and Issues

The lawsuits against Covidien allege several key issues:

  1. Defective Design: Plaintiffs claim that the hernia mesh devices, particularly those made from polyester, degrade and become infected more easily than those made from polypropylene. Many plaintiffs allege that Covidien’s hernia mesh products suffer from significant design flaws, particularly those in the Parietex line. These defects include:
    • Mesh Shrinkage and Migration: The mesh can shrink or migrate from its original placement, leading to severe complications.
    • Folding or Balling: The mesh can fold or ball up inside the body, causing pain and other issues.
    • Protective Coating Failure: The protective coating on some meshes fails to prevent adhesions, leading to tissue and organ damage.
  2. Failure to Warn: Covidien is accused of failing to adequately warn patients and healthcare providers about the risks associated with their hernia mesh products. This lack of proper labeling and warnings has been a central point in many lawsuits.
  3. Severe Complications: Reported complications include chronic pain, infection, organ and bowel perforation, adhesions, and the need for revision surgeries to remove the defective mesh.

Recent Developments

  • Discovery Phase: The litigation is currently in the discovery phase, with defendants producing large volumes of documents related to their hernia mesh products.
  • New Lawsuits: New lawsuits continue to be filed, including a recent case by a Michigan man involving the Symbotex Composite Mesh.
  • Settlement Prospects: There is ongoing speculation about potential settlements, with estimates suggesting that individual settlements could range from $40,000 to over $500,000, depending on the specifics of each case.

The Covidien hernia mesh litigation is a complex and evolving situation, with thousands of cases pending in both state and federal courts. The consolidation into an MDL aims to streamline the pretrial process and ensure consistent rulings.

As the discovery phase progresses, the potential for settlements remains a crucial area of interest for plaintiffs and their attorneys. The outcomes of these cases could have significant implications for Covidien and the broader hernia mesh medical device industry.