Regular readers of this blog know that we have a pretty jaded view of many MDLs. Obviously consolidation makes sense, at least on paper, in terms of efficiency and the best use of scarce court resources. But, in practice, many MDLs promote a litigation “mob mentality,” in which the merits of individual cases are not important at the outset and, in the world of “settlement inventories” and “mass settlements,” may never draw the scrutiny of the judge or anyone else. Though we continue to hope that “Lone Pine” orders will burgeon and raise the standards for plaintiffs seeking to fly under the radar and await settlement, many MDLs remain “safe havens” for plaintiffs who can’t satisfy the burden of proving their claims.
And a recent decision from the hip implant MDL does nothing to disturb this reality. In that MDL, a longstanding “Explant Preservation Order” requires preservation of hip implant devices removed from plaintiffs during explant surgeries. The order requires plaintiffs to “make good faith efforts to ensure that [medical facilities] preserve” explanted devices and provides options for plaintiffs’ counsel to claim devices within 60 days of explant or, in the alternative, for the devices to be sent to the defendants. It requires all parties to handle explanted devices in accordance with a written protocol or consistent with “methods and practices accepted by those in the field of inspection and testing of orthopedic devices,” to notify each other of devices in their possession before the date of the order, and to make devices available to each other after inspection and testing. All of this, obviously, ensures that the critical evidence in this product liability MDL is preserved and handled in a fair and consistent manner.
In Marquis v. Biomet, Inc., et al., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28465 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 1, 2017), the defendants moved for summary judgment against six plaintiffs. Five of these plaintiffs had had their devices explanted before they filed suit, or after they filed suit but before their cases were transferred into the MDL, and did not know what happened to their devices after they were explanted. The sixth plaintiff had several revision surgeries. During the first, the femoral head of her hip implant was replaced, and she asked for the explanted femoral head. She explained, “I figured I paid for it. I wanted it.” She kept the femoral head in her closet, didn’t disclose on her fact sheet that she had kept it, and didn’t tell anyone she had it until her deposition. The devices explanted during her subsequent surgeries were not preserved.