On December 16, 2014, the District Court of Nevada refused to dismiss the lawsuit Phillips v. C.R. Bard, Inc., one of many cases involving a device called an inferior vena cava filter (or IVC filter). The Lopez McHugh law firm is representing consumers who have suffered catastrophic injuries, including death, due to Bard’s defective IVC filters.
An IVC filter is intended to prevent blood clots from traveling to the heart or lungs, which can cause serious injuries or death. Numerous plaintiffs have filed individual lawsuits all over the country in which they allege that, compared to other IVC filters, Bard’s filters have higher failure rates. Plaintiffs further allege that Bard failed to recall its IVC filters even though it knew the devices were not reasonably safe for human use.
In many of these cases, Bard has filed motions for Summary Judgment—a procedural mechanism that allows a case to be dismissed before trial if a judge determines that there is no way a reasonable juror could find important and necessary facts in the plaintiff’s favor. Bard has argued, among other things, that plaintiffs cannot prove (1) that the device was defective, (2) that it caused their injuries, or (3) that Bard failed to provide adequate warnings.
Three separate courts have now ruled on Bard’s motions after having reviewed the evidence, and each court has denied Bard’s Motion for Summary Judgment. The most recent of these decisions was issued on December 16, 2014, by the Honorable Robert C. Jones, United States District Court Judge of the District Court of Nevada. Bard’s motion was denied except for two contentions that were not opposed by the plaintiff.
Aside from denying Bard’s motion for Summary Judgment, Judge Jones upheld the plaintiff’s right to seek punitive damages. The purposes of punitive damages are to punish a defendant for outrageous misconduct and to deter the defendant and others from similar misbehavior in the future. Such damages are allowed under Nevada law (which is applicable to the court where the case was filed) when a defendant had knowledge of probable harmful consequences of a wrongful act and willfully and deliberately failed to act to avoid those consequences. As Judge Jones noted, “Plaintiffs have proffered evidence that a reasonable jury could believe that shows Defendants knew that their IVC filter was unsafe but continued to market and distribute it, anyway.”
Although this ruling does not mean that the plaintiff has won his case, it paves the way for the case to go to trial and be decided by a jury.