The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Paragard IUD lawsuits has asked plaintiffs to file a “Master Complaint” this month, as part of a process expected to allow the direct filing of future claims through an abbreviated “Short Form Complaint” in the multidistrict litigation (MDL).
There are already more than 100 product liability lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide over problems with the Paragard birth control implant, which are now centralized before U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May in the Northern District of Georgia, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings. Each of the claims raise similar allegations, indicating the Paragard IUD is prone to fracture and break during removal, leaving women with permanent and debilitating complications. However, as lawyers continue to review and file lawsuits in the coming months and years, it is ultimately expected that several thousand claims will be included in the litigation.
In a case management order (PDF) issued on March 9, Judge May called for plaintiffs to file and serve a Master Complaint against Teva Pharmaceuticals, the Cooper Companies, and CooperSurgical, Inc. by March 22. This pleading will outline all of the allegations raised throughout the litigation, and the manufacturer has been directed to file any responsive pleadings by May 6, 2021.
In complex product liability lawsuits, where large numbers of individuals are pursing similar claims and allegations, it is common for the Court to approve a Master and Short Form Complaint, where plaintiffs can then file future lawsuits through an abbreviated form, where they adopt relevant allegations. Judge May has directed the parties to meet and prepare an agreed upon a Short Form Complaint, as well as a Direct File Order, which will streamline the process for filing new claims directly in the Northern District of Georgia, avoiding costs and delays associated with transferring claims from U.S. District Courts nationwide. The process is also intended to help the parties coordinate, categorize and evaluate the claims.
As part of the proceedings in the MDL, it is expected Judge May will establish a “bellwether” process, where a small group of representative claims will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout other cases. While the outcome for these early trials would not be binding on other plaintiffs, they may facilitate potential ParaGard IUD settlements which would avoid the need for each individual case to be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for a separate trial date in the coming years.