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Atwell v. Boston Scientific Corp. Addresses Jurisdiction in Large Transvaginal Mesh Claims

For anyone involved in a civil lawsuit, the question of whether the case should be removed from state to federal court is an important one.
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Technically, both parties should be able to expect a fair legal proceeding no matter the venue in which the case is heard. However, civil case defendants in large tort actions, such as transvaginal mesh claims, tend to view a federal court venue as a strategic advantage. They will often fight very hard to have a case removed from state court to federal court if there is an opportunity to do so.

When transvaginal mesh claims are filed as a class action or a mass action, it can improve the defendant’s odds of having the case removed to federal court, per the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. The law expanded the criteria under which such claims must be removed to federal court.

Such was the case for Atwell v. Boston Scientific Corp.. The case was not formally a class action, but it did involve a sizable number of cases lumped into into three separate groupings for purposes of expediting the claims through the court system. Grouping a number of similar civil claims together in the early phases allows the courts to uniformly decide procedural issues of law as these matters move toward trial phase. This ensures the court isn’t bogged down by having to decide the same kinds of issues over and over again.

When the first of those cases actually reach the trial phase, they are closely watched (considered “bellwether” cases). A decisive plaintiff victory can prompt defendants to offer up a sizable settlement to the remaining plaintiffs in line for their own trial.

That means there is a lot riding on those first few cases, and it also explains why the defendants in the Atwell case fought so hard for a removal to federal court.

Here, several groupings of plaintiffs filed suit against the manufacturers of transvaginal mesh medical devices, routinely used to treat pelvic prolapse and other conditions. The devices were later found to cause a host of problems, including damages to tissue, bowel and bladder perforation, internal scarring and blood vessel damage. In some cases, women have been forced to undergo additional surgeries to repair their injuries.

Three of the groups of fewer than 100 plaintiffs filed suit against manufacturer Boston Scientific Corp. Attorneys for these plaintiffs made a request that all be assigned to a single judge for purposes of discovery and trial. Following these motions, Boston Scientific requested the case be removed to federal court, on the grounds that this was considered a “mass action” under the 2005 law.

Two of the district court judges denied this request, saying no case included more than 100 plaintiffs and even these plaintiffs had not proposed that the state court should try their actions jointly. However, Boston Scientific requested the right to appeal on the basis that the plaintiffs had every intention of a joint trial, otherwise they would not have requested a single judge.

In response, the federal appellate court sided with Boston Scientific, holding that although there was no explicit request to try the cases together, there collective requests suggested that was the direction in which the cases were going.

As such, Boston Scientific was granted its request for removal of the cases from state to federal court.

If you have suffered as a result of transvaginal mesh surgery in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Atwell v. Boston Scientific Corp., Nov. 18, 2013, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, St. Louis
More Blog Entries:
Studies Reveal Transvaginal Mesh Both Unsafe and Ineffective, Oct. 22, 2013, Boston Transvaginal Mesh Claim Attorney Blog