WHEELING – Teresa Toriseva of Wheeling has secured an appointment to represent thousands of plaintiffs from 25 states in litigation over Kugel mesh hernia repair patches at a federal court in Providence, R.I.
Toriseva and two other attorneys will act as lead counsel in all Kugel patch suits that the U. S. Judicial Council on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated in June.
"It is a coveted position," Toriseva said. "In multidistrict cases you can have thousands of plaintiffs and hundreds of lawyers."
Judges in multidistrict cases preside over discovery. They send suits back to their original courts for trial.
Toriseva said plaintiffs in the Kugel patch suits have suffered harm or may suffer future harm because a hard ring on the patch can snap, break, and puncture a bowel.
"For a number of people there has been no problem except the fear of failure," she said. "We expect continuing product failure."
Plaintiffs seek an order requiring manufacturer Davol, of Rhode Island, to pay for monitoring of those with patches inside.
Toriseva's appointment puts her at the pinnacle of mass litigation.
When the multidistrict council consolidates suits from around the nation, three things can happen to the attorneys who filed them.
At worst, they can sit on the sidelines while others represent their clients.
With enough respect from their peers, they can win appointment to a plaintiff steering committee.
At the top of the trade, they can act as lead counsel.
Toriseva had served on two steering committees in multidistrict cases, but until now she had not acted as lead counsel.
"To be lead counsel, you need the support of your firm," she said. "It's a delicate thing and you have to have the support of those attorneys."
Toriseva practices at Wexler Toriseva Wallace, in Wheeling.
"We have clients in 35 states and offices in Sacramento and Chicago," she said. "It's nicer to see Wheeling, West Virginia, on the roster than seeing my name on it. It gives me a great sense of pride to show that something good came out of West Virginia."
She was born and raised at Cameron in Marshall County. She graduated from Wheeling Jesuit University in 1992 with a degree in biology.
She earned a law degree at West Virginia University in 1995.
She said, "I worked in Charleston for eight years and then I came back home," she said, adding that her studies in biology prepared her for litigating medical malpractice cases. "I was always interested in drugs and devices."
She currently serves as president of the West Virginia Association for Justice, formerly the West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.
She has represented West Virginia taxpayers as a special assistant attorney general in four antitrust suits and three consumer protection suits.
She has published articles and presented remarks at seminars 15 times this year, traveling to Chicago, Las Vegas, Providence, New Orleans, and Miami.
This week she planned a New York trip for a seminar on multidistrict litigation.
In February she will deliver remarks on mass torts at a West Virginia University continuing legal education seminar.