Judge Calls for Female Attorneys on Plaintiffs’ Committee for Mirena Injury Litigation

I was interested as a defective medical device attorney to see a recent news item about the gender makeup of the steering committee of plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Mirena IUD injury litigation. As Thomson Reuters reported, the New York federal judge in charge of the Mirena multidistrict litigation has urged the plaintiffs’ attorneys to include at least some woman on the committee, which provides leadership for the plaintiffs’ side of the lawsuit. The lawsuits in this MDL allege that the Mirena IUD caused serious injuries to women who had it implanted, including perforation of the uterus leading to severe pain, surgery and sometimes fertility problems. There are 50 federal lawsuits in the MDL, but plaintiffs’ attorneys said they expect to eventually add all of the pending state-court cases, which number over 100 and are expected to increase.
The Mirena IUD is a device that prevents pregnancy when implanted in a woman’s uterus. There is a small risk of perforation of the uterus when an IUD is first inserted, but that’s not the complaint being made in the MDL. The Mirena lawsuits allege that over time, the IUD can embed in the wall of the uterus or even tear through it, causing organ damage and pain. In some cases, this also makes it possible to get pregnant. The device sometimes even attaches to other organs in the pelvis or tears them, causing further damage. And Mirena IUD injuries also include ectopic pregnancy, when the pregnancy implants in a Fallopian tube instead of the uterus and is life-threatening if not terminated. Victims of Mirena IUD uterine tearing often need surgery to remove the IUD and repair damage; some woman have had hysterectomies, which means they can never get pregnant again.
The Thomson Reuters article said Alyson Oliver, a Michigan attorney representing plaintiffs in the litigation, argued to the judge that the largely female plaintiffs in this litigation would benefit from having a female attorney. This was not just because another woman might empathize better and convey that empathy to a jury, she said, but because the maker of Mirena, Bayer, is using a female lead attorney for what are likely strategic reasons. Plaintiffs should do the same, she argued. U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel of the southern district of New York agreed and urged plaintiffs’ attorneys to include some women in leadership positions. That may come through the steering committee for the litigation, which is still being chosen; plaintiffs’ lawyers have already voted on a four-person executive committee that is all male.
As a pharmaceutical liability lawyer, I agree that strategic considerations are important—but I believe an experienced male attorney can convey the depth of the plaintiffs’ losses. Women injured by the Mirena IUD have experienced loss of their fertility as well as the kind of severe pain, emergency surgery and all of the attendant financial costs that affects both genders. An experienced male attorney should have many previous cases to draw on to help him explain to the jury the depth of his clients’ losses, as well to request a fair financial award in court. At Carey, Danis & Lowe, our defective medical device attorneys have many years of experience handling complex pharmaceutical injury cases, including cases that disproportionately affect one gender.


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