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August 4, 2016

Judge Gives Consolidated California Essure Cases a Boost in Rulings, Following Briefing and Argument by Motley Rice and Co-Counsel

Judge Winifred Y. Smith in Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, issued a decision on Aug. 2, 2016, permitting the claims of 14 women who believe they were injured by Essure to proceed against the manufacturer, Bayer, finding that the claims were not expressly or impliedly preempted under federal or state law. Motley Rice attorney Lou Bograd argued and presented the preemption issue on behalf of the Plaintiffs and attorney Fidelma Fitzpatrick also participated in the hearing held on July 29, 2016. While this proceeding directly addressed claims in 11 consolidated cases filed in California State Court by the 14 women, it improves the prospects for recovery of thousands of women alleging they were seriously injured by their use of Essure, including hundreds of women represented by Motley Rice.

Thousands of women across the U.S. claim the permanent birth control device Essure®  has caused serious and permanent injuries. Essure manufacturer Bayer asserted that the Plaintiffs, and similarly situated women, are barred from bringing claims against it due to federal preemption law. Bayer claims that because Essure is a Class III medical device that was approved by the FDA in 2002, it is immune from lawsuits brought by the victims of the device.

Judge Smith rejected Bayer’s request for immunity, instead finding that the Plaintiffs could proceed with the causes of action related to:

  • Bayer’s alleged failure to adequately warn the FDA, and thereby the public, of Essure’s potential dangers and adverse side effects;
  • Claims that Bayer breached Essure’s warranties and misrepresented Essure’s safety and efficacy through advertising and promotional materials that were not approved by the FDA

The Judge stated that the Plaintiffs’ claims that Bayer negligently trained physicians and manufactured the Essure device improperly could also survive preemption, but that Plaintiffs must replead those claims with more details on how Bayer’s conduct caused the Plaintiffs’ injuries.

“I am extremely encouraged by Judge Smith’s decision. Women who believe their injuries were caused by Essure deserve their day in court, and we have vigorously argued on their behalf for the right to pursue personal injury claims against Bayer,” said Motley Rice Essure lawyer Fidelma Fitzpatrick. “We continue to believe Bayer should not be allowed to hide behind preemption and should be made to answer to each and every woman injured by Essure through the legal system.”

In February 2016, the FDA announced it will require Bayer to conduct a clinical study, implement a patient decision checklist to make sure potential users of Essure understand the risks of the product, and add a black box warning to Essure’s labeling. A black box warning is the FDA’s highest warning level and indicates that a product may cause serious injuries or death.  

“It was an honor to go before Judge Smith and fight for these women and their families,” said Bograd. “Bayer, like many other drug and medical device manufacturers, has been trying to use the doctrine of Preemption to immunize itself from liability and deny women alleging injury by its product their day in court. In the Essure litigation, we are prepared to tackle all legal hurdles Bayer throws at us and to continue working toward allowing our clients to be heard.”

Read the rulings: