Over the last several months, there have been three jury determinations with respect to inferior vena cava (“IVC”) filter cases. This article provides a brief update on those verdicts and the status of ongoing litigation with respect to IVC filters. If you or a loved one has had an IVC filter implanted and it has migrated or broken apart causing injury or death, call the experienced and trusted medical malpractice attorneys here at the Roger Ghai Law Offices. See our earlier discussions here and here.
IVC Litigation — Background
IVC filters are “spider-like devices” implanted in the inferior vena cava — a large vein leading up to the heart from the lower body — to trap blood clots. Blood clots are dangerous and can lead to heart attacks, strokes and pulmonary embolisms. The many thousands of plaintiffs have alleged various causes of action and have targeted two manufacturers of IVC filters, C.R. Bard, Inc. (“Bard”) and Cook Medical, Inc. (“Cook”). The claims being made and the accumulated evidence suggests that the IVC filters made by Bard and Cook are more dangerous than other IVC filters because they have a higher risk of tilting, perforating the IVC, or fracturing and migrating to the heart, lungs and other organs. A 2015 NBC news investigation is credited with triggering the lawsuits. In that report, it was disclosed the 39 people had died from complications related to the filters and that the Federal Drug Administration had received hundreds of reports of problems linked to IVC filters.
As of May 2018, Bard faced 3,834 IVC filter lawsuits had been filed against Bard and another 4,189 lawsuits had been filed against Cook. See here.
As of July 2018, Bard has lost one jury case and won another; Cook has had one case dismissed before trial in November 2017 but lost another case after a jury trial in late May 2018.
Bard March 2018 Jury Trial Loss ($3.6 million verdict): Sherr-Una Booker (US District Court Arizona) —
In March 2018, an Arizona jury awarded a plaintiff, Sherr-Una Booker, $1.6 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages in her lawsuit against Bard. See news report here.
Ms. Booker had her Bard-manufactured IVC filter implanted in 2007. Specifically, Ms. Booker had a Bard G2 filter implanted. Bard manufactures several versions of the filters.
Seven years later, it was discovered that her filter had tilted and had penetrated the IVC wall and also fractured and broken apart. One “leg” — or strut of the filter — had migrated to Ms. Booker’s heart and two other struts had cut into Ms. Booker’s IVC. Ms. Booker underwent surgery in July 2014. One strut was removed, one strut remains embedded in her IVC and the attempt to remove the strut from her heart resulted in damage to her tricuspid valve. Ms. Booker had open heart surgery to repair the tricuspid valve and to remove that strut.
Plaintiff filed suit against Bard in February 2016 under Georgia law. She alleged four causes of action: strict liability design defect, negligent design, strict liability failure to warn, and negligent failure to warn. In March 2018, the jury found Defendants liable on the negligent failure to warn claim and awarded Ms. Booker $1.6 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.
In June 2018, the trial court denied Bard’s attempt to set aside the jury verdict. See In Re: Bard IVC Filters Products Liability Litigation, Nos. MDL 15-02641-PHX DGC, CV-16-00474-PHX-DGC (US Dist. Ariz. June 19, 2018). See news report here.
In so holding, the court held that “sufficient evidence” existed for the jury to find that Bard’s G2 filter failed at higher rates than other filters, including other Bard filters. The court noted that Bard received reports and complaints within months after the G2 was first marketed about migration and other problems. Over the ensuing years, more complaints arrived from hospitals, physicians and patients. Further, Bard conducted its own testing and clinical trials, all of which confirmed the problems, particularly with fracturing and migration. Plaintiff also provided testimony from a Bard engineer who opined that the G2 device was badly designed which led to a higher likelihood of tilting, perforation and fracture. According to the judge, this was more than enough evidence to support the jury’s finding that, despite knowing that G2 filters placed patients at a greater risk of harm, Bard chose not to warn physicians and instead downplayed the risk. These facts justified both the award of compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Bard June 2018 Jury Trial Victory: Doris Jones (US District Court Arizona) —
By contrast, in June 2018, Bard was successful in defending against a case filed by Doris Jones. Mrs. Jones had a Bard Eclipse IVC filter implanted in 2010 due to recurrent deep vein thrombosis. Five years later, Mrs. Jones went to the emergency room with complaints of lightheadedness and arm pain. As with other cases, her Bard Eclipse filter had fractured causing a piece to block Mrs. Jones’ right pulmonary artery. Mrs. Jones underwent surgery to remove the filter and various pieces. However, the strut blocking the artery could not be removed.
Mrs. Jones and her husband filed suit asserting various claims under Georgia law including:
- Failure to warn
- Design defects
- Misrepresentation and fraud
- Negligence per se
- Consumer fraud and unfair trade practices
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
On March 12, 2018, summary judgment was granted on most of the counts. See Opinion here. In late May 2018, the Jones case went to trial on the failure to warn and design defects claims. After a 12-day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Bard. See AJC report here. The plaintiffs plan to appeal the loss and seek a new trial.
Cook June 2018 Jury Trial Loss ($1.2 million): Jeffrey Pavlock (Texas State Court) —
In 2015, Houston, Texas firefighter, Jeffrey Pavlock had a Cook Celect filter implanted to prevent blood clots from reaching heart and lungs. Implantation of the Celect filter was intended to be temporary, but before it was scheduled to be removed, the filter migrated and broke apart. One strut became embedded in his IVC and was/is protruding through and became lodged adjacent to his aorta artery (the key human artery for blood movement). Mr. Pavlock has undergone two unsuccessful surgeries to remove the broken struts.
Mr. Pavlock brought suit against Cook in Texas State court alleging various claims including failure to warn and design/manufacturing defects.
On May 24, 2018, a Texas State jury returned a verdict of $1.2 million in favor of Pavlock and against Cook. The jury found that Cook was negligent in failing to give proper warning of the risks and dangers associated with the Celect filter. See reports here and here.
Georgia IVC Litigation Attorneys: Contact the Roger Ghai Law Offices
For more information, contact the Kennesaw medical device malpractice attorneys at the Roger Ghai Law Offices Our attorneys can help if you — or a loved one — has been injured as a result of complication from an IVC filter implantation. We provide legal services for the residents of Cobb County including the communities of Kennesaw, Acworth, Marietta and the surrounding areas. Click here to schedule your consultation.