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In re Bard IVC Filters Products Liability Litigation

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 19, 2019

IN RE Bard IVC Filters Products Liability Litigation,

          SUGGESTION OF REMAND AND TRANSFER ORDER

          David G. Campbell Senior United States District Judge

         This multidistrict litigation proceeding (“MDL”) involves personal injury cases brought against Defendants C. R. Bard, Inc. and Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc. (collectively, “Bard”). Bard manufactures and markets medical devices, including inferior vena cava (“IVC”) filters. The MDL Plaintiffs have received implants of Bard IVC filters and claim they are defective and have caused Plaintiffs to suffer serious injury or death.

         The MDL was transferred to this Court in August 2015 when 22 cases had been filed. Doc. 1. More than 8, 000 cases had been filed when the MDL closed to new cases on May 31, 2019. Docs. 18079, 18128. Thousands of cases pending in the MDL have settled in principle or are near settlement. See Docs. 16343, 19445, 19798-1, -2. The remaining cases no longer benefit from centralized proceedings and are subject to remand or transfer.

         The cases listed on Schedule A, which were transferred to this MDL by the United States Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (the “Panel”), should be remanded to the transferor courts pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a). The Court therefore provides this Suggestion of Remand to the Panel.[1] The cases listed on Schedule B, which were directly filed in this MDL, will be transferred to appropriate districts pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

         To assist the courts that receive these cases, this order will describe events that have taken place in the MDL. A copy of this order, along with the case files and materials, will be available to courts after remand or transfer.

         I. Suggestion of Remand.

         A. Remand Standard.

         The power to remand MDL cases rests solely with the Panel. 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a); see Lexecon Inc. v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, 523 U.S. 26, 28 (1998). The Panel typically relies on the transferee court to suggest when remand should be ordered. J.P.M.L. Rule 10.1(b)(i); see In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litig., No. 07-MD-1840-KHV, 2012 WL 1963350, at *1 (D. Kan. May 30, 2012). Indeed, the Panel “is reluctant to order a remand absent the suggestion of the transferee judge[.]” J.P.M.L. Rule 10.3(a); see In re Regions Morgan Keegan Sec., Derivative & ERISA Litig., No. 2:09-md-2009-SHM, 2013 WL 5614285, at *2 (W.D. Tenn. Feb. 28, 2013). The transferee court may suggest remand when cases are “ready for trial, or . . . would no longer benefit from inclusion in the coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings.” In re Multi-Piece Rim Prods. Liab. Litig., 464 F.Supp. 969, 975 (J.P.M.L. 1979); see In re TMJ Implants Prods. Liab. Litig., 872 F.Supp. 1019, 1038 (D. Minn. 1995).

         B. The Panel Should Remand the Cases Listed on Schedule A.

         The primary purposes of this MDL - coordinated pretrial discovery and resolution of common issues - have been fulfilled. All common fact and expert discovery has been completed. The Court has also resolved many Daubert motions and Defendants' summary judgment motion based on preemption, as well as other summary judgment and in limine motions in the bellwether cases. Three bellwether trials were held, and the parties prepared for a fourth that settled on the eve of trial. As noted, a settlement process is in place.

         The MDL cases listed on Schedule A are not likely to settle soon and no longer benefit from centralized proceedings. The remaining case-specific issues in these cases are best left to the transferor courts to resolve. The Court therefore suggests that the Panel remand the cases on Schedule A to the transferor courts for further proceedings. See In re TMJ Implants, 872 F.Supp. at 1038 (suggesting remand of cases that no longer benefited from consolidated pretrial proceedings).

         Defendants raise venue and personal jurisdiction objections in cases in which the transferor district is not where the filter at issue was implanted. See Docs. 19445 at 4-6, 19445-4, 19798-3. The Court may not resolve venue issues in cases transferred by the Panel under § 1407(a). See Lexecon, 523 U.S. at 39; Manual for Complex Litigation, Fourth, § 20.132 n.666. And for reasons explained below, the Court finds that personal jurisdiction issues are best resolved by the transferor courts. Defendants' right to challenge venue and personal jurisdiction upon remand is preserved.

         II. Transfer Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

         A. Transfer Standard.

         Section 1404(a) provides that “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.”

         B. The Direct-Filed Cases Listed on Schedule B Will Be Transferred.

         Not all MDL cases were transferred to the Court by the Panel. Pursuant to Case Management Order No. 4 (“CMO 4”), many cases were filed directly in the MDL through use of a short form complaint. Doc. 363 at 3 (as amended by Docs. 1108, 1485). Plaintiffs were required to identify in the short form complaint the district where venue would be proper absent direct filing in the MDL. See Id. at 7. CMO 4 provides that, upon the MDL's closure, each pending direct-filed case shall be transferred pursuant § 1404(a) to the district identified in the short form complaint. Id. at 3.

         1. Cases Where the Parties Agree to Venue.

         The parties have provided a list of the direct-filed cases in which they agree to the venue identified in the short form complaint. Doc. 19798-4. The parties also agree that certain other cases should be transferred to the venue where the plaintiff was implanted with the filter and not to the venue identified in the short form complaint. Doc. 19798-5. Pursuant to § 1404(a), the Court will transfer these cases to the agreed-upon districts. See Lifehouse Holdings, LLC v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's London, No. 13-CV-02161-LHK, 2013 WL 5754381, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2013) (transferring case where the “second prong of Section 1404 - consent - [was] satisfied”); In re Biomet M2a Magnum Hip Implant Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 3:12-MD-2391, 2018 WL 7683307, at *1 (N.D. Ind. Sept. 6, 2018) (transferring cases under § 1404(a) where they would “no longer benefit from centralized proceedings[] and the remaining case-specific issues are best left to decision by the courts that will try the cases”).[2]

         2. Cases Where the Parties Disagree on Venue or Jurisdiction.

         CMO 4 provides that, prior to transfer, Defendants may object to the district specified in the short form complaint based on venue or personal jurisdiction. Id. at 4. Defendants have identified cases where they intend to raise venue or jurisdiction objections to Plaintiffs' chosen forums. See Docs. 19445 at 6, 19454-1, 19798-5. Defendants do not oppose transfer of these cases to the forums chosen by Plaintiffs, but seek to preserve their right to object to venue and personal jurisdiction upon transfer. See Doc. 19445 at 3, 6; Doc 19798-5 at 1.

         Plaintiffs oppose this approach, asserting that the resolution of venue and jurisdictional challenges after transfer would be inefficient. Doc. 19445 at 3. But more than a dozen cases involve potential venue or personal jurisdictional challenges. See Doc. 19798-5. Resolving such disputes generally involves consideration of case-specific factors, including the law for the forum. See Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000) (“A motion to transfer venue under § 1404(a) requires the court to weigh multiple factors in its determination whether transfer is appropriate in a particular case.”); Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 788, (1984) (in judging the minimum contacts required for personal jurisdiction, “a court properly focuses on ‘the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation'”) (citation omitted). The best approach is to transfer the cases to Plaintiffs' chosen forum and allow the receiving courts to address any potential venue and personal jurisdictional issues. Defendants' right to object to venue and personal jurisdiction upon transfer is preserved.

         Plaintiffs assert that, depending on the various state savings statutes, dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction after transfer could result in timely-filed cases being barred from re-filing in an appropriate district based on the statute of limitations. Doc. 19445 at 3-4. But “[o]nce a district court determines that it lacks personal jurisdiction, it is within its discretion to transfer the case to a court of proper jurisdiction and venue if it finds that it is within the interests of justice to do so.” Romero v. Cajun Stabilizing Boats, Inc., No. CIV.A.G 05 483, 2006 WL 367871, at *4 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 14, 2006) (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1406(a), 1631); see Dumitrescu v. DynCorp Int'l, LLC, 257 F.Supp.3d 13, 20 (D.D.C. 2017); Goldlawr, Inc. v. Heiman, 369 U.S. 463, 466 (1962). Plaintiffs are free to argue in the receiving courts that the interests of justice favor transfer rather than dismissal of any timely-filed case that would be barred from re-filing if dismissed. See In re Ski Train Fire In Kaprun, Austria on Nov. 11, 2000, 257 F.Supp.2d 717, 734-35 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (“If this case is dismissed, . . . plaintiffs will be unable to establish jurisdiction in Colorado because they will be barred from refiling in Colorado by the two year statute of limitations. To deny plaintiffs the opportunity to sue . . . defendants in a jurisdiction where they could have originally brought suit . . . solely because they selected the wrong forum at the outset of this case would be grossly unfair.”); see also Manieri v. Layirrison, No. CIV. A. 98-501, 1998 WL 458186, at *3 n.3 (E.D. La. July 31, 1998) (noting that “[t]he curative effects of §§ 1404(a), 1406(a) and 1631 were intended to apply only in those circumstances where the action would have been timely filed in the transferee court at the time of filing in the transferor court”).

         III. The MDL Proceedings.

         A summary of the MDL proceedings to date is provided below to assist courts on remand, if ordered by the Panel, and courts receiving transfers under § 1404(a). CMOs, discovery orders, and other significant rulings are listed in Exhibit 1. The status of the remaining case-specific discovery and other pretrial issues for these cases, and the estimated time needed to resolve such issues and make the cases ready for trial, will be determined by the parties and reported to the district courts on remand or transfer.

         A. Plaintiffs' Claims and the Pleadings.

         The IVC is a large vein that returns blood to the heart from the lower body. An IVC filter is a small device implanted in the IVC to catch blood clots before they reach the heart and lungs. This MDL involves multiple versions of Bard's retrievable IVC filters - the Recovery, G2, G2X, Eclipse, Meridian, and Denali. These filters are umbrella-shaped devices that have multiple limbs fanning out from a cone-shaped head. The limbs consist of legs with hooks that attach to the IVC wall and curved arms to catch or break up blood clots. Each of these filters is a variation of its predecessor.[3]

         The MDL Plaintiffs allege that Bard filters are more dangerous than other IVC filters because they have higher risks of tilting, perforating the IVC, or fracturing and migrating to vital organs. Plaintiffs further allege that Bard failed to warn patients and physicians about these higher risks. Defendants dispute these allegations, contending that Bard filters are safe and effective, that their complication rates are low and comparable to those of other IVC filters, and that the medical community is aware of the risks associated with IVC filters.

         CMO 2, entered October 30, 2015, required the creation of a master complaint, a master answer, and templates of short-form complaints and answers. Doc. 249 at 6. The master complaint and answer were filed December 12, 2015. Docs. 364, 366. They are the operative pleadings for most of the cases in this MDL.

         The master complaint gives notice, pursuant to Rule 8, of the allegations that Plaintiffs assert generally. The master complaint asserts seventeen state law claims: manufacturing defect (Counts I and V); failure to warn (Counts II and VII); design defect (Counts III and IV); failure to recall (Count VI); misrepresentation (Counts VIII and XII); negligence per se (Count IX); breach of warranty (Counts X and XI); concealment (Count XIII); consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices (Count XIV); loss of consortium (Count XV); and wrongful death and survival (Counts XVI and XVII). Doc. 364 at 34-63. Plaintiffs seek both compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 63.

         Plaintiff-specific allegations are contained in individual short-form complaints or certain complaints served on Defendants before the filing of the master complaint. See Docs. 249, 363, 365. Plaintiffs also provided Defendants with profile forms and fact sheets that describe their individual claims and conditions. See Doc. 365.

         B. Case Management Orders.

         The primary orders governing pretrial management of this MDL are a series of CMOs, along with certain amendments. To date, the Court has issued 45 CMOs. These orders are discussed below and can be found on this District's website at http://www.azd.uscourts.gov/case-info/bard.

         C. Lead Counsel.

         CMO 1, entered October 30, 2015, appointed Co-Lead/Liaison Counsel for Plaintiffs (“Lead Counsel”) to manage the litigation on behalf of Plaintiffs, and set out the responsibilities of Lead Counsel. Doc. 248. Plaintiffs' Lead Counsel has changed since the inception of the MDL. Mr. Ramon Lopez, of Lopez McHugh, LLP, in Newport Beach, California, and Mr. Mark O'Connor, of Beus Gilbert PLLC, in Phoenix, Arizona, are now Lead Counsel for Plaintiffs. Doc. 5285. Mr. Richard North of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP, in Atlanta, Georgia, is Defendants' Lead Counsel.

         D. Plaintiffs' Steering Committee and Common Benefits Fund.

         CMO 1 directed the selection and appointment of a Plaintiffs' Steering Committee (“PSC”) to assist in the coordination of pretrial activities and trial planning. Plaintiffs' Lead Counsel and the PSC together form the Plaintiffs' Leadership Counsel (“PLC”). The PLC assists all Plaintiffs in the MDL by overseeing discovery, appearing in court, attending status conferences, and preparing motions and responses regarding case-wide discovery matters. CMO 1 has been amended to select and appoint a Plaintiffs' Executive Committee (“PEC”) to assist Lead Counsel in the administration, organization, and strategic decisions of the PLC. Doc. 4016. The configuration of the PSC has changed during the course of the litigation. See Docs. 248, 4016, 5285.

         CMO 6, entered December 18, 2015, set forth rules, policies, procedures, and guidelines for fees and expenses incurred by attorneys acting for the common benefit of all MDL Plaintiffs. Doc. 372. In May 2019, the Court increased the common benefit attorneys' fees assessment from 6% to 8%, but declined to increase the 3% assessment for costs. Doc. 18038.

         E. Status Conferences.

         Since the inception of the MDL, the Court has held regular status conferences with Lead Counsel for the parties to discuss issues related to the litigation. The initial case management conference was held in October 2015. Doc. 246. Deadlines were set for, among other things, the filing of master and short-form pleadings, profile forms, a proposed protective order (including Rule 502 provisions), a proposed protocol governing the production of electronically stored information (“ESI”), as well as deadlines to complete first-phase MDL discovery and address privilege log issues. Doc. 249. Thereafter, the Court held periodic status conferences to ensure that the parties were on task and to address routine discovery issues and disputes. In addition to the status conferences, the Court conducted telephone hearings to address time-sensitive issues, as well as numerous additional conferences to consider various matters such as dispositive motions and general case management issues.

         F. Discovery.

         1. General Fact Discovery.

         Prior to the establishment of this MDL, Plaintiffs' counsel had conducted substantial common discovery against Bard concerning all aspects of Bard IVC filters, including the design, testing, manufacturing, marketing, labeling, and post-market surveillance of these devices. Bard produced numerous documents and ESI and responded to thousands of written discovery requests, and more than 80 corporate witness depositions were taken. The pre-MDL general fact discovery was made available by Bard to all Plaintiffs in the MDL.

         This MDL was formed to centralize all pretrial proceedings and complete all common fact and expert discovery concerning Bard IVC filters. Doc. 1. CMO 8 established a procedure concerning re-deposing witnesses in the MDL. Doc. 519. CMO 14 established deposition protocols generally. Doc. 2239. The Court allowed additional depositions of a handful of corporate witnesses that had been previously deposed, as well as numerous depositions of other Bard corporate witnesses, including several Rule 30(b)(6) depositions. Docs. 3685, 4311. CMO 9 governed the production of ESI and hard-copy documents. Doc. 1259.

         Discovery in the MDL was separated into multiple phases. The parties completed the first phase of MDL discovery in early 2016. Doc. 519. First-phase MDL discovery included production of documents related to an FDA inspection and warning letter to Bard, an updated production of complaint and adverse event files, and an updated version of Bard's complaint database relating to IVC filters. Doc. 249. Plaintiffs also conducted a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition concerning the FDA inspection and warning letter, and a deposition of corporate witness Kay Fuller.

         The parties completed the second phase of MDL fact discovery in February 2017. CMO 8 set deadlines for the second phase, which included all common fact and expert issues in the MDL, but not case-specific issues to be resolved after remand or transfer. Docs. 249, 519. Second-phase discovery included extensive additional discovery related to Bard's system architecture for ESI, Bard's ESI collection efforts, ESI relating to Bard's IVC filters, and Bard's national and regional sales and marketing practices. Plaintiffs also deposed two corporate witnesses in connection with Kay Fuller's allegations that a submission to the FDA regarding the Recovery filter did not bear her original signature. Doc. 1319 (CMO 10). Plaintiffs deposed additional corporate witnesses concerning the FDA inspections and warning letter. Id.

         Bard also produced discovery regarding the sales and marketing materials related to the SNF, documents comparing filter performance and failure rates to the SNF, and internal and regulatory communications relating to the SNF. Docs. 1319, 10489. The Court denied Plaintiffs' request to obtain ESI discovery from Bard's overseas operations. Doc. 3398. The Court denied Defendants' request to discover communications between Plaintiffs' counsel and NBC news related to stories about the products at issue in this litigation, and third-party financing that may be in place with respect to MDL Plaintiffs. Docs. 3313, 3314. Plaintiffs were required to produce communications between Plaintiffs and the FDA related to the FDA warning letter, but the Court denied Defendants' request to depose Plaintiffs' counsel regarding these communications. Docs. 3312, 4339. Defendants also produced punitive damages discovery, and Plaintiffs conducted a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition related to Bard's net worth.

         All common fact discovery in these cases has now been completed except for preservation depositions for certain witnesses who will not be traveling to testify live at the trials of remanded and transferred cases. The parties are engaged in the meet and confer process as to these depositions and shall complete them by September 1, 2019. See Doc. 16343 (CMO 43). Thus, courts receiving these cases need not be concerned with facilitating general fact discovery on remand or transfer.

         2.Case-Specific Discovery.

         CMO 5 governed initial case-specific discovery and required the parties to exchange abbreviated profile forms. Doc. 365 (as amended by Doc. 927). Plaintiffs were required to provide Defendants with a Plaintiff profile form (“PPF”) that described their individual conditions and claims. Id. at 5-9. Upon receipt of a substantially complete PPF, Defendants were required to provide the individual plaintiff with a Defendants' profile form (“DPF”) that disclosed information and documents concerning Defendants' contacts and relationship with the plaintiff's physicians, tracking and reporting of the plaintiff's claims, and certain manufacturing related information for the plaintiff's filter. Id. at 12-14. Completed profile forms were considered interrogatory answers under Rule 33 or responses to requests for production under Rule 34, and were governed by the standards applicable to written discovery under Rules 26 through 37. Id. at 2-3. CMO 5 also set deadlines and procedures for resolving any purported deficiencies with the parties' profile forms, and for dismissal of cases that did not provide substantially completed profile forms. Id. at 2.[4]

         Further discovery was conducted in a group of forty-eight cases (“Group 1”) selected for consideration in the bellwether trial process from the pool of cases filed and properly served on Defendants in the MDL as of April 1, 2016 (“Initial Plaintiff Pool”). Docs. 1662, 3214, 4311 (CMOs 11, 15, 19). Plaintiffs in Group 1 were required to provide Defendants with a Plaintiff fact sheet (“PFS”) that described their individual conditions and claims in greater detail, and provided detailed disclosures concerning their individual background, medical history, insurance, fact witnesses, prior claims, and relevant documents and records authorizations. Docs. 1153-1, 1662 at 3.

         Upon receipt of a PFS, Defendants were required to provide the individual plaintiff with a Defendants fact sheet (“DFS”) that disclosed in greater detail information concerning Defendants' contacts and relationship with the plaintiff, plaintiff's physicians, or anyone on behalf of the plaintiff, Defendants' tracking and reporting of the plaintiff's claims, sales and marketing information for the implanting facility, manufacturing information for the plaintiff's filter, and other relevant documents. Docs. 1153-2, 1662 at 3. Completed fact sheets were considered interrogatory answers under Rule 33 or responses to requests for production under Rule 34, and were governed by the standards applicable to written discovery under Rules 26 through 37. Doc. 1662 at 3. CMO 11 set deadlines and procedures for resolving any purported deficiencies with the parties' fact sheets. Id. at 2, 4-5. CMO 12 governed records discovery for Group 1. Doc. 1663. The parties agreed to use The Marker Group to collect medical, insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, prescription, Social Security, workers' compensation, and employment records for individual plaintiffs from third-parties designated as custodians for such records in the PFS. Id. at 1.

         From Group 1, twelve cases were selected for further consideration as bellwether cases (“Discovery Group 1”). Docs. 1662, 3685, 4311 (CMOs 11, 18, 19). CMO 20 set deadlines for preliminary case-specific discovery in that group. Doc. 4335. Pursuant to the protocols set in CMOs 14 and 21, the parties were permitted to depose Plaintiffs, a spouse or significant family member of Plaintiffs, the implanting physician, an additional treating physician, and either a Bard sales representative or supervisor. Docs. 2239, 4866 at 1-2. From Discovery Group 1, six Plaintiffs were selected for ...


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