In July of 2012, a federal panel of federal trial judges issued an order settling all pending and future federal Coloplate mesh lawsuits in the Eastern District of West Virginia in order to enable the district court to concentrate on the prosecution of criminal cases. Settlement of the lawsuit allows the plaintiffs’ attorneys to concentrate on their cases, and it will also enable the government to focus its resources on prosecuting criminals who are accused of committing crimes through the use of these mesh-type surgical devices. Consolidating the lawsuit to a single judicial district will avoid inconsistent pretrial decisions, lower expenses, and allow cases to be settled more quickly.
There have been many previous instances of lawsuits being settled out of court by defendants whose attorneys had filed frivolous lawsuits against alleged victims or defendants who could not afford to pay for their legal defense. Under these circumstances, the defendants who were unable to afford to retain counsel sought to have their lawsuits dismissed because they were financially incapable of defending them. In most instances, the plaintiffs were forced to settle the lawsuit out of court. In many cases, these lawsuits had been brought in order to force victims and defendants into paying settlement amounts that were far greater than their actual injury-related financial losses.
Because of the complex legal issues involved with Coloplast lawsuits, settlement agreements must be handled by lawyers with extensive experience in the area of law and medical malpractice, as well as the legal issues related to mesh implants and similar surgical devices. In addition, because the case is still ongoing, defendants should not expect to receive any monetary benefits from their lawsuit, such as any awards for attorneys’ fees, if they choose not to participate in mediation or to pursue their claim in court.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys in the case involving the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in a unanimous opinion that there was not enough evidence for the court to consider the merits of the claims presented by plaintiffs in a case against Drs. James J. Coloplast, Inc., and John F. Smith. According to the panel, “Plaintiffs failed to establish a likelihood of prevailing on their claims that the mesh implants violate the constitutional right to privacy.” or that these devices cause pain or suffering that falls below the level of pain or suffering associated with that level of pain and suffering. associated with the victims’ ability to function on a day to day basis.
plaintiffs alleged that “these implants to make them physically incapable of performing their typical daily activities,” and “they find that their mental condition and state of mind are worsened by their implants.” As such, plaintiffs argued, “These implants deprive them of the fundamental constitutional rights that they are entitled to under the Constitution.”
In its opinion, the panel held that the evidence that plaintiffs presented did not support their claims, “The use of mesh implants causes significant pain or emotional distress” or that the devices cause “mental or physical discomfort.” Furthermore, the panel found that the plaintiffs failed to establish a likelihood of prevailing on their claim that the implants cause the defendants’ conduct or intentional or reckless indifference to their pain. Further, the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that they suffer physical harm or suffering from the use of the implants, because the physical effects of the mesh implants are not severe enough to constitute a significant and continuing impairment.
Because the district court improperly allowed the use of extraneous information and failed to carefully examine the defendants’ records, plaintiffs were required to present only their “best evidence” in support of their lawsuit, which included clinical studies and laboratory findings. Moreover, plaintiffs were not required to present any other evidence that supports their claims, which is often the only way to prove that surgical devices actually cause patients any pain.
For these reasons, the district court properly concluded that the plaintiffs did not present a “substantial and realistic probability” of prevailing on their claim that the use of Coloplast implants cause them pain or emotional distress. In addition, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that plaintiffs failed to adequately support their claims. This case therefore does not require a reversal of its prior ruling regarding whether Drs. Coloplast and Smith engaged in conduct or intentional or reckless indifference in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.