Monday, July 27, 2015 - Manufacturers of power morcellators, a recently controversial medical device, have objected to a motion to transfer a series of lawsuits against the company filed by plaintiffs before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Lawsuits have been filed in 16 federal districts in the country relating to the cancer-spreading element of the morcellator when used surgically on women. The defendants claim that more lawsuits are necessary to consolidate them into multidistrict litigation. At the time the motion to transfer was filed, at least 22 lawsuits had been included in the appeal to centralize the litigation before a single federal judge.
Plaintiffs in the power morcellator lawsuits claim that the medical devices, manufactured by giant medical companies such as Johnson and Johnson, have the ability to spread dormant cancers in women during surgery. The morcellators, which are commonly used in hysterectomies and other uterine procedures, can spread dormant cancer cells within a woman‘s uterus. This can lead to debilitating and sometimes fatal uterine cancer that otherwise would not have spread as quickly.
The lawsuits allege that the morcellator is especially dangerous because the types of cancer it can agitate are difficult to diagnose before the device is used. The morcellator is used to remove small tissues during uterine surgeries and does in fact make the procedures less invasive and easier to recover from for women. However, the risk involved in the procedure has affected dozens of women already who fell victim to the spread of cancerous cells spread by the morcellator‘s function during uterine surgery.
Johnson and Johnson has already halted the manufacturing of the morcellator devices, doing so in July of 2014 shortly after the FDA issued a warning relating to the dangers posed by morcellators. That warning, issued in April of 2014, informed the medical community about the risk of the device‘s effect on the spread of uterine cancer. With an estimated 1 of every 350 women carrying dormant cancer cells that could be spread following a morcellator procedure, the warning sharply cut the usage of morcellators in uterine surgeries and prompted the beginning of litigation filed against their manufacturers.
The manufacturers of the morcellators have claimed that a greater number of lawsuits is needed for the consolidation of the cases into an MDL to be needed. The defendants claim that the number of lawsuits will not grow far beyond those that have already been filed, and that creating a MDL for the claims will not serve to expedite their proceedings to a point that one should be necessary. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs however claim that more than 300 additional cases will soon join the litigation, and all the possible cases being brought against the manufacturers will benefit greatly from the bundling of resources afforded by the prospect of multidistrict litigation.
The plaintiffs have requested that the lawsuits be centralized in the District of Kansas federal court. The first morcellator manufacturer named in the MDl request, LiNA Medical, settled with plaintiffs last week for a confidential amount. It is not clear whether more settlements will be agreed to following the first deal made concerning morcellator claims, but the motion to transfer the lawsuits will continue despite the objections of manufacturers who do not support the plaintiff‘s request to centralize the claims.