WASHINGTON –- Judges in Washington picked U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin of Charleston to preside over 36 federal lawsuits about Avaulta vaginal implants.
On Oct. 12, the Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation put him in charge of 19 cases from Georgia, 16 from West Virginia and one from South Dakota.
Plaintiffs claiming organ injuries and incontinence seek damages from C. R. Bard Inc., and Covidien Inc., manufacturers and distributors of the mesh tissue support devices.
West Virginia plaintiffs also allege negligence and battery against physician Mitchell Nutt, who has filed cross claims against Bard and Covidien.
In July, plaintiffs asked the multi district panel to consolidate all federal cases and assign them to District Judge Robert Chambers of Huntington.
He presided over 15 Avaulta cases and planned to hold trials starting in February.
In the alternative, plaintiffs asked the panel to assign the litigation to District Judge Robert Vining of Atlanta.
Bard and Covidien opposed consolidation, and so did Nutt.
The panel granted consolidation, finding that all the actions share factual questions about design, manufacture, safety, testing, marketing and performance.
"It appears that Bard and Covidien did not develop these products entirely independently," panel chairman John Heyburn wrote. "Indeed, these devices were sold under the same brand name, and it is alleged that Bard was Covidien's U. S. distributor for the Covidien-manufactured Avaulta device.
"While the claims against Dr. Nutt will involve issues of fact unique to each plaintiff, his cross claims against Bard and Covidien will involve common questions of fact with the product liability claims asserted by plaintiffs."
The panel found that centralization in West Virginia would facilitate coordination with 11 cases pending in Cabell County circuit court.
Although they granted consolidation in West Virginia, they passed over Chambers.
Heyburn wrote that they chose Goodwin after consulting with judges in the district.
Goodwin currently presides over multi district litigation about Digitek heart medicine.
Lawyers tentatively settled those claims in September.