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Power Morcellator Litigation: A Closer Look at Putting Women at Risk

By: Anapol Weiss


The number of cases currently pending in In re Ethicon, Inc. Powel Morcellator Products Liability Litigation (MDL 2652) pending in the District of Kansas (D. Kan. No. 15-md-2652-KHV).

1 in 352.

1 in 368.

1 in 278.

These figures represent estimates of the number of women who are at risk of having a deadly cancer spread when undergoing routine gynecological surgeries with a power morcellator. Generally speaking, this is a very high risk, especially considering we are dealing with an avoidable hazard: the use of a power morcellator in minimally invasive gynecological surgeries.

Power Morcellator Litigation (MDL 2652)

On October 15, 2015, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) entered an order transferring all power morcellator cases against Ethicon. Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, to the District of Kansas for coordinated and consolidated pretrial proceedings. The JPML panel appointed Senior Judge Kathryn H. Vratil, a former JPML chairman, to oversee the pretrial proceedings and currently 46 cases have been transferred to her court, including at least one from the Eastern District of PA and three from the Middle District of PA.

The number of power morcellator lawsuits has more than doubled since the JPML approved consolidation of the cases and is steadily increasing.

While there are several companies that manufacture power morcellators, the JPML panel determined that an industry-wide multidistrict litigation (MDL) would not be appropriate because of major differences in product design and development, testing standards, product labeling, and marketing. The MDL is specifically for all federal power morcellator cases against Ethicon, Inc. – which was the largest manufacturer of power morcellators until voluntarily pulling its morcellation products from the market on July 30, 2014 in response to mounting concern over the controversial surgical tool.

The lawsuits allege a link between the use of power morcellators in gynecological surgeries and the spread of cancerous cells. The two main allegations include common questions of fact: first, morcellator manufacturers designed a “defective” device that was capable of spreading hidden cancers during approved use in hysterectomy or myomectomy (uterine fibroid removal). Second, patients were not properly informed of these risks by manufacturers with an accurate incidence ratio of undetected uterine cancer in women seeking a hysterectomy or myomectomy.

Judge Vratil has entered an ambitious scheduling order and the parties are working tirelessly to move these cases quickly. More cases are being filed every day and the Court is holding monthly status conferences for updates and to resolve any issues of dispute. Trials are anticipated as early as 2017.

Contact our medical device team if you underwent a hysterectomy or myomectomy and suspect recurring health conditions may be related to the tools used in the procedure. Our firm is highly qualified to represent women and their families facing the devastation of cancer after morcellation.