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Jury awards $3M to plaintiff in IVC filter lawsuit

On February 1, 2019, a jury in Indiana announced their verdict in the month-long Brand et. al. v. Cook Medical Incorporated et. al. trial.  This bellwether case saw plaintiff Tonya Brand suing defendant Cook Medical Inc., alleging that the medical company’s IVC blood clot filters are defective and have the potential to injure their patients.

                In 2009, a “Celect” model inferior vena cava or IVC filter was implanted in Tonya Brand in preparation for an upcoming spinal-infusion surgery.  These filters are intended to catch blood clots and prevent them from travelling up to the patient’s heart and lungs.  In May 2011, Brand began to experience pain in her right thigh, and a month later she was able to see something protruding from her skin.  She pulled the object out, and realized it was part of her vein filter.  A full body scan revealed that the filter had fractured, and a piece had moved close to her spine.  In October 2015, Brand underwent open surgery to remove the broken filter.

                Brand then filed a lawsuit against Cook Medical and others associated with the vein filter’s manufacture and sale, claiming strict liability and negligent failure to warn, strict liability and negligent design defect, negligent manufacturing, negligence per se, breach of warranty and loss of consortium.  In response, Cook Medical moved for a summary judgment on all claims.  If granted, a summary judgment would mean that no material facts are in dispute, the case only involves legal interpretation.

                In December 2018, U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young tossed most of Brand’s claims, stating that she had not shown Cook Medical’s actions or lack of warning at any point before or after her surgeries resulted in any harm to her.  Further, because Brand did not respond to the motion in respect to her breach of warranty, negligent manufacturing, and loss of consortium claims, the court granted Cook Medical’s motion for a summary judgment.  This left only Brand’s design defect claim intact.

                This case is the third bellwether trial in multidistrict litigation brought against Cook Medical in recent years.  A bellwether trial is a test case that is intended to try a widely contested issue.  Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is a special federal legal procedure that is designed to speed up the process of handling complex cases.  The first bellwether case was Hill v. Cook Medical et. al. in November 2017, which ended with the jury finding their verdict in Cook Medical’s favor.  The second case was Gage v. Cook Medical et. al. in March 2018, with the case ultimately being tossed out because it was time-barred.  This means that the case was barred due to the passage of time under a statute of limitations.

                Brand et. al. v. Cook Medical et. al., however, marks the first time Cook Medical’s inferior vena cava filter was found defective after thousands of cases have been filed.  Brand was awarded $3 million by the jury, making this a landmark personal injury trial.  This case’s verdict is the first to find the design of a retrievable vein filter defective.  Further, Brand was awarded the highest compensatory amount of any case tried so far.  Cook Medical has since responded to the verdict, stating that they intend to appeal the jury’s decision.

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