A Texas jury has just awarded more than $1.2 Million to a Houston firefighter who claimed a Cook Inc. Medical device perforated his major organs.
The jury found that Cook hadn’t sufficiently warned about known risks associated with the device, an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter. IVC filters, especially those manufactured by Cook, are at the center of numerous lawsuits. According to the plaintiff, Cook “knew and/or should have known that the Celect filter had a high rate of fracture, migration, and excessive tilting and perforation of the vena cava wall.”
The Houston resident’s case was the first IVC filter lawsuit against Cook held in state court, but echoes thousands more pending against Cook and its main competitor, CR Bard, Inc.
Cook Responsible for Irreparable Damage
Like an estimated 30,000 other patients each year, the Houston firefighter was implanted with an IVC filter to trap blood clots before they reach the heart and other organs. The small, spider-like device was placed in his vena cava, the body’s largest vein.
As is the case in many similar IVC lawsuits, the plaintiff’s implant migrated. His case alleged the filter tilted within his vein and perforated his aorta and duodenum. The damage necessitated surgical removal in 2015, the same year the device was implanted, but was so extensive that both attempts to retrieve the filter failed.
The plaintiff argued that Cook should have known its IVC devices are prone to expose patients to serious injuries, which in past cases included migration, fracture, and severe pain in addition to perforations and difficult removal. These risks should have been enough to warrant a warning, he said.
The jury agreed that Cook failed to warn the plaintiff’s physician, and it was this negligence that caused the firefighter’s injuries. The $1.2 Million award included compensation for past and future pain and suffering, future loss of earnings and medical expenses, and past and future disfigurement and impairment.
Could This Set the Tone for Thousands of Remaining Suits?
In response to the verdict, Cook’s vice president Cynthia Kretz said the company would appeal “on multiple grounds.”
“We are disappointed in this outcome and do not believe this verdict is supported by the facts or the law,” she said in a news release. “This one case does not change our position on continually defending this important, life-saving technology.”
Perhaps 1 case isn’t enough to make a difference – but how about 4,000? That’s the number of lawsuits in multidistrict litigation (MDL) against both Cook and Bard. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received thousands of adverse event reports before issuing a clear warning of the device’s risks.
All complaints claim the devices caused serious, even life-threatening problems. Independent investigators also weighed in, finding a 12 percent failure rate associated with Bard filters. And even after a report linked its device to 27 deaths and more than 300 injuries, Bard continued to sell the devices without adequately warning doctors.
Is Cook capable of the same deception? Its response to this verdict was less than encouraging. For now, this verdict could serve as the warning patients never received, if not a precedent for future MDL decisions.
A second bellwether trial against Bard is expected to wrap up within days, after the first resulted in a $3.6 Million verdict for the plaintiff; Cook’s next bellwether trial is due to begin this fall.