Bellwether IVC Filter Trials Return Mixed Verdicts

In the last few months alone, juries in Georgia and Arizona returned opposing verdicts regarding the amount of liability device manufacturer C.R. Bard faces for their defective IVC filter implants. In March, a Phoenix jury awarded $3.6 million dollars to Sherr-Una Booker after an IVC filter she had installed failed and caused her severe injuries.

But then, not three months later, a second bellwether case produced a contrary verdict in Georgia that sided with the defense. The jury found that Bard adequately warned of the high fail-rate and various complications of their Eclipse IVC filter and was, therefore, not liable for any damages victims may have suffered.

Currently, Bard is facing thousands of lawsuits nationwide over the faulty IVC filters they manufacture. At least 39 deaths have been directly connected to Bard’s IVC filters, alone.

IVC Filter Malfunctions

IVC filters are medical devices shaped a bit like cellar spiders that are typically installed into the inferior vena cava. Their medical purpose is to catch potentially dangerous blood clots that can cause pulmonary embolisms, a third of which are ultimately fatal.

Where IVC filters go wrong are when the struts break off and fail to keep the filter secured to the walls of the inferior vena cava. Released into the bloodstream, the filter will either migrate to other areas of the body or even shatter into multiple pieces which can then become lodged in the heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Failed IVC filters also increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

If an IVC filter does malfunction, victims have little recourse beyond having the shattered pieces surgically removed as soon as possible. The best preventative measure, however, is to avoid having IVC filters placed altogether.

Sherr-Una Booker v. C.R. Bard and Bard Peripheral Vascular

In the Arizona case of Sherr-Una Booker, the IVC filter she had installed in 2007 suddenly shifted out of place. The filter’s struts then pierced the walls of her vena cava, the wide vein responsible for pushing blood to the heart. Booker’s heart and several other organs were punctured by the filter after it broke into several pieces.

Lawyers representing Booker successfully argued that Bard knew in advance that its Eclipse IVC filters were dangerous and chose to sell them anyway without properly notifying doctors and patients about their potential risks. The Arizona jury’s verdict decided Bard was liable for $1.6 million in actual damages and another $2 million in punitive damages to Sherr-Una Booker.

Doris Jones, et al. v. C.R. Bard, Inc., et. al.

The verdict in the Georgia case involving Doris Jones, the jury found for the defense, C.R. Bard. Jones had sued Bard after an Eclipse IVC filter she had implanted in 2010 to treat deep-vein thrombosis. Five years later, she began to feel chronic arm pain and lightheadedness. After undergoing a medical scan of her chest, a detached strut from the IVC filter was discovered in her right pulmonary artery. Surgeons were able to remove the IVC filter from Ms. Jones. The broken strut, however, remains lodged in her artery and will likely never be removed due to the danger of the procedure. Jones’ lawyers contend the strut remains a potentially fatal threat to their client.

Jones filed suit against Bard, and her case was eventually selected to be apart of a Bard IVC MDL in the U.S. District Court in Arizona. Her bellwether trial began on May 15th. Two weeks later, the jury rejected Jones’ claims, deciding Bard did, indeed, sufficiently notify doctors of the filter’s potential rate of failure and possible complications. They also rejected her counsel’s argument that the Eclipse IVC filter was defectively designed from the outset. Jones plans to appeal the verdict.

Bard, owned by Becton Dickinson and Company, is currently facing 3,800 lawsuits in federal MDL in the District of Arizona.

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