In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety warning regarding procedures involving laparoscopic power morcellation. The decision was made after a review of scientific literature revealed that 1 in 350 women that underwent surgeries using power morcellators had developed uterine sarcomas, which are malignant tumors. In response, many women and their families have filed power morcellator lawsuits against a variety of product manufacturers for risking their lives.
Dangers of Using Laparoscopic Power Morcellators
Power morcellators are laparoscopic tools used in minimally invasive surgeries like hysterectomies, myomectomies, and uterine fibroid removals. The morcellators are made of tiny blades that spin rapidly to tear apart uterine tissue. This technology supposedly has made tissue easier to remove. However, the action made by these devices can “morcellate” and spread undetected cancer cells throughout the abdominal cavity, accelerating the potentially fatal illness.
At the time of the FDA’s initial warning against power morcellators, Ethicon, a division of the consumer health care corporation Johnson & Johnson, manufactured three different power morcellation devices. These morcellation tools were used to remove tissue during hysterectomies, uterine fibroid removal surgeries, and myomectomies. Immediately following the FDA’s announcement, Johnson & Johnson voluntary recalled their morcellation devices— the Gynecare Morcellex, the Morcellex Sigma and the Gynecare X-Tract.
In courts across the country, power morcellator lawsuits now allege Ethicon breached a duty of care when it knew or should have known about the harm their morcellator could cause, failing to warn patients and health care providers.
On October 15, 2015, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation approved a consolidation of 28 power morcellator lawsuits against Ethicon in the US District Court in Kansas. The panel noted in their decision that the Ethicon suits contained common factual questions to be resolved, including whether the packaging contained appropriate warnings, whether the device should have included a bag to contain the organic tissue it destroys, and what the company knew about the risks to hysterectomy patients who may have had cancer.
This form of litigation (a Multidistrict Litigation or MDL) is helpful in civil actions filed across multiple districts that address similar questions of fact against one defendant (28 U.S. Code § 1407). This allows both parties to have an easier time in making their case by requiring less travel, reducing costs, and allowing legal teams for the plaintiffs to share resources and utilize the same set of expert witnesses. MDLs also generally make the pursuit of justice easier on the judicial parties trying the lawsuits.
In the Ethicon case, the panel held their first scheduling meeting on November 18, 2015. The panel will revisit scheduling issues first on December 7, 2015, and finally address any outstanding case management issues on December 21, 2015. Actual litigation may not begin for some time, but mass settlements are definitely possible as the caseload grows.
This MDL will be especially important in cases where the plaintiffs are already suffering or the plaintiffs are dealing with the death of a loved one caused by these morcellation devices. One of the plaintiffs passed away recently after being diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Expediency is of upmost importance under these circumstances.
Seeking Legal Assistance
Power morcellator lawsuits have been filed across the country as many victims seek compensation from Ethicon and other morcellator manufacturers for risking their lives.
If you have undergone a procedure involving the use of an Ethicon morcellation, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. Submit your power morcellator lawsuit claim for a free case review or call 866-242-0452 for more information.