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Are lawyers required to file a pelvic mesh lawsuit as part of the mass torts program, or can the lawyer file a pelvic mesh case as a major case, individually?

     The Court can order an individually filed pelvic mesh case to be part of the mass tort program.

     Several states are known for coordinated state-court mass tort proceedings, such as California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Missouri, and in some types of mass torts, New York, and Florida.

     A mass tort is a civil action involving numerous plaintiffs against one or a few defendants in state or federal court.  

     Some attorneys believe that it is in their and their clients' interests to pursue individual cases to trial to demonstrate the value of their caseload, then negotiate settlements for their remaining cases.

     Law firms sometimes use mass media to reach potential plaintiffs. The main categories of mass torts include medical device injuries.

     Mass tort claims can include different complaints against the same defendant(s), and often involve injuries from dangerous drugs and medical products. Because mass tort claims can involve multiple plaintiffs, they can take longer than typical personal injury cases. Mass torts are a powerful legal tool for claimants who are able to pool resources when fighting a common defendant.

       Ordinarily, a personal injury practice consists of one-off, single-event matters. In contrast, a mass tort practice offers economies of scale, where an attorney can represent numerous plaintiffs who have been injured or killed by the same drug or medical device. Based on conservative estimates, two to four million people per year are injured in mass tort cases.

         What the process looks like: On May 31, 2013, Hammons filed a civil complaint against Ethicon in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (“trial court”) alleging negligence, strict liability and other torts at May Term, 2013, No. 3913 (“Individual Docket”). In March 2014, the trial court transferred Hammons’ case to a Mass Tort Program action, In Re Pelvic Mesh Litigation, which encompassed all pelvic mesh cases pending in Philadelphia. 

     On March 31, 2014, the trial court issued a case management order dividing the Pelvic Mesh Litigation matter into proceedings on a Master Docket and proceedings on each plaintiff’s Individual Docket.

     All pelvic mesh plaintiffs collectively were to file a “long form” complaint alleging facts and causes of action that applied globally to all pelvic mesh cases, and each defendant was to file (1) preliminary objections that raised global objections to all pelvic mesh cases or (2) an answer to the long form complaint. Within 25 days after the answer to the long form complaint, each plaintiff was to file a “short form” complaint on her Individual Docket identifying the counts of the long form complaint that she incorporated by reference and asserting any new facts or causes of action not in the long form complaint.

     Each defendant could then file preliminary objections on the Individual Docket raising objections that applied specifically to the short form complaint. If the defendant did not file preliminary objections, an entry of appearance by counsel for the defendant would constitute a denial of allegations in the short form complaint and an assertion of all applicable new matter and defenses.         

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