CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Nearly 26,000 medical product liability lawsuits are being focused in Charleston beginning Monday in federal court.
Those cases involve injury claims against six manufacturers of vaginal mesh, a woven wire medical device used by many physicians to repair hernias, support organs and repair bladder and pelvic problems.
In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration issued an alert to doctors about possible serious complications that could arise from the use of that material. A flood of lawsuits alleging injuries have been filed - some of them originating in the Kanawha Valley.
On Monday, United States District Judge Joseph Goodwin will preside over the first "bellwether" cases in an effort to understand the principal issues that have come into litigation.
The outcome of four back-to-back trials will determine the next step in litigation for those thousands of nationwide cases.
It's not the first time Goodwin has agreed to tackle such a large challenge. He also presided over multi-district cases involving two drugs, Digitek and Serzone.
Local attorney Harry Bell said reining in those complicated lawsuits is no easy task, but he said it is noteworthy that the Southern District court and Goodwin have been selected again to do it.
Bell said, "It's a real impressive thing for West Virginia to be recognized to have the multi-district cases here. It's a feather in the cap for any judge assigned those cases.
"It's prestigious to be selected," he said. "It reflects well on you, your staff and your community. A lot of judges will go through their whole career and never get multi-district litigation."
Goodwin has the responsibility of coordinating mesh cases from courts around the U.S., understanding the core issues from both sides and determining how to proceed efficiently.