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Mirena MDL Timetable Released

In the latest order handed down by the Judge presiding over the Mirena lawsuits consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL), the parties have been informed of a timetable for the discovery process. Judge Cathy Seibel of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York released the Scheduling Order on August 16, 2013.

Discovery to move forward

The Scheduling Order provides a framework for the progression of the discovery process. Discovery is a phase in pre-trial proceedings in which all parties obtain evidence via depositions and requests for document production. Information may also be obtained from uninvolved parties through the use of subpoenas.

This particular Scheduling Order includes a September 16, 2013 deadline for the production of the plaintiff’s initial interrogatories and requests for production. The defendants have been further ordered to produce the custodial files of certain plaintiffs. The production of generic expert reports on behalf of all parties is expected to be completed later in the year.

Mirena lawsuits in the MDL share similar allegations

Although the discovery process is moving forward, it is possible that more plaintiffs will still join the Mirena multidistrict litigation. The most recent case list indicated that 123 Mirena lawsuits are currently consolidated in the court. The MDL was created by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in April to streamline the litigation process for federal lawsuits filed against Bayer Pharmaceuticals that share similar allegations and statements of fact.

The plaintiffs in the products liability MDL No. 2434 all allege that they experienced physical injuries and side effects after using the Mirena intrauterine device (IUD). Mirena is a form of birth control. It is a small, T-shaped device that a healthcare provider inserts into a patient’s uterus. The IUD releases hormones for up to five years to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Bayer first introduced the product in 2000 and launched an aggressive marketing campaign that suggested Mirena was a convenient alternative to other forms of birth control.

However, since its release, many women have stepped forward, complaining of significant complications. Some of the alleged side effects of Mirena include migration of the device, which can result in perforation of the uterine wall. The device is also said to have perforated other nearby internal structures in some women, including the bladder and intestines. Other patients have complained of device embedment in the uterine wall, expulsion of the device, chronic pain, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and vaginal scarring. Some women have filed Mirena lawsuits because they were found to be infertile after using the IUD and others have suffered from life-threatening ectopic pregnancies.

Bellwether trials anticipated in 2015

In the Judge’s recent Scheduling Order, the parties have also been ordered to select cases for the Initial Disposition Pool no later than April 4, 2014, with case-specific discovery to be completed for those cases by September 30, 2014. The cases in the initial pool are referred to as bellwether cases.

Bellwether cases in an MDL are the initial lawsuits to go to trial. They serve as a means for all involved parties to assess jury reactions to testimony and evidence. The plaintiffs may also use the outcomes of the bellwether trials as leverage in negotiations, should they decide to seek a Mirena lawsuit settlement with Bayer. Although no specific dates have yet been selected for the bellwether trials, the first plaintiffs could have their day in court as early as 2015.