Judge Joseph Goodwin of the United States District Court for Southern West Virginia is overseeing the multi-district litigation (MDL) involving thousands of the lawsuits filed over C.R. Bard’s pelvic mesh devices for pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. Bard faces more than 12,400 pending cases. In an MDL hearing this week, Judge Goodwin made comments that appear to be directed toward Bard’s shareholders.
“I can’t imagine a corporation facing potentially billions of dollars in verdicts wouldn’t find it advisable to try to achieve a settlement for a much lesser sum,” Goodwin said at the Dec. 9 hearing, Bloomberg reported. “I base that billions of dollars business on some of the rather large verdicts that we’ve had.” “I find it to be a material fact that 5 different state forums have, on average, returned verdicts of over a million dollars per plaintiff,” the judge said. “If I were a stockholder of any of these companies, I would be materially interested in the fact that there have been multiple million-dollar verdicts for individual plaintiffs.”
These comments follow a series of multi-million dollar verdicts against Bard and other manufacturers of pelvic mesh products designed to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. Among the referenced verdicts are as follows: In November a jury in West Virginia reached an $18.5 million verdict in favor of four women for injuries they said were caused by Boston Scientific’s Obtryx device for stress urinary incontinence, including $4 million for “gross negligence.” That verdict came a week after a Miami jury reached a $26.7 million verdict in favor of four women implanted with the company’s Pinnacle device for pelvic organ prolapse.
It is unusual for a federal judge to address a party’s shareholders, even in the form of a hypothetical statement. However, the consequences of Bard continuing to absorb these type of verdicts could be dire. The shareholders deserve to know.