Laparoscopic power morcellators are electronically powered tools that use a bladed feature to shred uterine fibroids and other tissue so that they may be easily removed through small incision in the abdomen. The process has been used in recent years as an alternative to traditional, open abdominal surgical hysterectomies, myomectomies and laparotomies.
On April 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety communication discouraging the use of laparoscopic power during hysterectomy or myomectomy for the treatment of woman with uterine fibroids. Several months later, the FDA issued an advisory indicating that use of the device in patients with unsuspected uterine sarcoma may worsen the long term survival.
Plaintiffs began filing lawsuits alleging injuries caused by power morcellators after the device were linked to several medical devices were linked to several medical disorders, including the dissemination and upstaging of occult ancer and the development of recurrent parasitic fibroids.
According to the plaintiffs, however, manufacturers of power morcellators knew, as far back as the early 1990s, that tissue fragments created by the morcellators process can become implanted in surrounding tissue or organs. “When tissue fragments escape into the abdominopelvic cavity and seed in other tissue or organs, complications can arise months or years after the surgery”, the petition states. “As a result, the use of laparoscopic power morcellators can spread, upstage or worsen a women’s occult cancer, changing the stage cancer into much higher cancer and significantly worsening a women’s prognosis.”
Plaintiffs allege that the manufacturers of power morcellators failed to disclose evidence linking the use of the device to the dissemination and upstaging of occult cancer and other injuries and instead aggressively marketed the devices without adequate warning. Plaintiffs also contend that, in additional to the twenty-two power morcellators lawsuits currently pending in federal court around the country, numerous additional claims are expected or have already been filed in several state court venues.
Plaintiffs allege a link between power morcellator’s use and the spread of cancer cells and have filed a petition seeking consolidation of the cases in Kansas. In June 18, 2015, a motion to create a multidistrict litigation docket for all pending and future morcellator lawsuits wherein the plaintiffs asked the Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Ligation (“JPML”) to transfer the cases to Judge Kathryn H. Vratil, a former JPML chairperson sitting in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Plaintiffs assert that Judge Vratil is best suited to preside over the MDL given her JPML experience and her current status as a transferee judge for two other non-related MDL dockets.