Conti v. Ethicon, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Motions in Limine) The 113 Motion in Limine is GRANTED in part as to Motion in Limine No. 1 and any other conceded motion therein; the remainder of the Motion is DENIED without prejudice; the 109 Motion in Limine is GRANTED in part as to Motion in Limine No. 2 and any other conceded motion therein; the remainder of the Motion is DENIED without prejudice; the 111 Motion to Exclude Evidence of Plaintiff's Allegations of Spoliation is GRANTED; and the 118 Motion for Leave to File a Reply is DENIED as moot. Signed by Judge Joseph R. Goodwin on 1/20/2017. (cc: counsel of record; any unrepresented party) (kp)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:12-cv-516
ETHICON, INC., et al.,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
(Motions in Limine)
Pending before the court are the plaintiff’s Motion in Limine [ECF No. 113],
the defendants’ Motions in Limine [ECF Nos. 109, 111], and the defendants’ Motion
for Leave to File a Reply [ECF No. 118].
This case resides in one of seven MDLs assigned to me by the Judicial Panel
on Multidistrict Litigation concerning the use of transvaginal surgical mesh to treat
pelvic organ prolapse (“POP”) and stress urinary incontinence (“SUI”). In the seven
MDLs, there are more than 60,000 cases currently pending, approximately 28,000 of
which are in this MDL, which involves defendants Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon,
Inc. (collectively “Ethicon”), among others.
In this MDL, the court’s tasks include “resolv[ing] pretrial issues in a timely
and expeditious manner” and “resolv[ing] important evidentiary disputes.” Barbara
J. Rothstein & Catherine R. Borden, Fed. Judicial Ctr., Managing Multidistrict
Litigation in Products Liability Cases 3 (2011). The court seeks the assistance of the
parties in completing these tasks by asking the parties to focus on discrete, important,
or more relevant matters. Here, the court expected the parties to focus their motions
in limine on “highly prejudicial statements in opening or closing statements or
questions at trial that, once heard by the jury, cannot be easily cured by an instruction
to disregard.” Pretrial Order No. 234, at 5 [2:12-md-2327 ECF No. 2314] (“PTO 234”).
The court further cautioned that it would “not provide advisory opinions on the
admissibility of evidence a party may offer at trial and [would] summarily deny those
motions as premature.” Id.
a. The Plaintiff’s Motion to Preclude Evidence Relating to the FDA (Motion in
Limine No. 1) [ECF No. 113]
The plaintiff asks the court to exclude evidence related to the FDA, including
the FDA’s 510(k) process, arguing it is impermissibly irrelevant and prejudicial under
Federal Rules of Evidence 402 and 403. Pl.’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Lim. 1–4 [ECF No.
In short, the 510(k) process “does not in any way denote official approval of [a]
device.” 21 C.F.R. § 807.97. The process is not focused on whether a device is safe; it
is concerned with the device’s equivalence to another device. Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr,
518 U.S. 470, 493 (1996). Because the process does not speak to the safety or efficacy
of any product, whether Ethicon products were approved through this process is
irrelevant. Even if the 510(k) process were relevant, the court would exclude this
evidence under Rule 403. Any kernel of relevance is outweighed by “the very
substantial dangers of misleading the jury and confusing the issues.” In re C. R. Bard,
810 F.3d 913, 922 (4th Cir. 2016) (affirming the court’s exclusion of 510(k) evidence).
Put simply, evidence of this sort is inadmissible and, in any event, does not
survive a Rule 403 analysis. The court will not belabor the point here as it has already
done so on several occasions. E.g., Lewis v. Johnson & Johnson, 991 F. Supp. 2d 748,
754–56 (S.D. W. Va. 2014). The court GRANTS in part the plaintiff’s Motion in Limine
[ECF No. 113] as to Motion in Limine No. 1 and in any other instance where the
defendants conceded to the plaintiff’s Motion. The remainder of the plaintiff’s Motion
in Limine [ECF No. 113] is DENIED without prejudice.
b. The Defendants’ Motion to Exclude the January 2012 “522” Letters and
Subsequent FDA Actions (Motion in Limine No. 2) [ECF No. 109]
The defendants ask the court to exclude evidence of the January 2012 “522”
letters and subsequent FDA actions that would have applied to Ethicon devices if
they had not been discontinued, arguing it is prejudicial under Federal Rules of
Evidence 403 and would require presentation of evidence on a collateral issue. Mem.
Supp. Mot. Lim. 2–5 [ECF No. 110]. The plaintiff does not contest this Motion. Resp.
3 [ECF No. 116]. Indeed, the court has excluded this same evidence on prior occasions.
See, e.g., Bellew v. Ethicon, Inc., No. 2:13-cv-22473, 2014 WL 6680356, at *1 (S.D. W.
Va. Nov. 25, 2014). The court GRANTS in part the defendants’ Motion in Limine [ECF
No. 109] on this point and in any instance where the plaintiff concede to the
defendants’ Motion; the remainder of the Motion is DENIED without prejudice.
c. The Defendants’ Motion to Exclude Evidence of Plaintiff’s Allegations of
Spoliation [ECF No. 111]
The defendants have separately filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence
related to spoliation. [ECF No. 111]. The plaintiffs have repeatedly alleged that the
defendants lost or destroyed documents relevant to this multidistrict litigation. On
February 4, 2014, Magistrate Judge Eifert held that the defendants’ actions were
negligent, not willful or deliberate, and denied the plaintiffs’ motions for severe
sanctions, such as default judgment, striking of defenses, or offering an adverse
instruction in every case. Pretrial Order No. 100, Feb. 4, 2014 [2:12-md-2327 ECF
No. 1069] (“PTO 100”). However, Judge Eifert recommended that I allow the plaintiffs
“the opportunity to introduce evidence regarding [the defendants’] loss of relevant
documents on a case-by-case basis, and, when appropriate, to tender an adverse
inference instruction.” Id. at 42–43. The plaintiffs have since asked Judge Eifert to
reconsider PTO 100, claiming that they have discovered new evidence that
establishes that the defendants’ duty to preserve evidence began earlier than
previously thought. See Pls.’ Request for Clarification and Reconsideration [2:12-md2327 ECF No. 1099].
While a motion for reconsideration is pending before Judge Eifert, the parties
have indicated that they do not desire a ruling on the motion at this time. If and until
Judge Eifert rules on the motion to reconsider, her original ruling remains in force
and effect. Moreover, the plaintiff has offered no evidence or argument that evidence
of spoliation will be relevant in this case. The plaintiff asserts that there are only two
documents in the custodial file but fails to demonstrate how this impacts her case.
See Resp. to Mot. Exclude Evid. of Spol. [ECF No. 117]. Therefore, the defendants’
Motion in Limine [ECF No. 111] on the issue of spoliation is GRANTED.
Accordingly, the defendants’ Motion for Leave to File a Reply [ECF No. 118] is
DENIED as moot.
The plaintiff’s Motion in Limine [ECF No. 113] is GRANTED in part as to
Motion in Limine No. 1 and any other conceded motion therein; the remainder of the
Motion is DENIED without prejudice. The defendants’ Motion in Limine [ECF No.
109] is GRANTED in part as to Motion in Limine No. 2 and any other conceded motion
therein; the remainder of the Motion is DENIED without prejudice. The defendants’
Motion to Exclude Evidence of Plaintiff’s Allegations of Spoliation [ECF No. 111] is
GRANTED. The defendants’ Motion for Leave to File a Reply [ECF No. 118] is
DENIED as moot.
The court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Order to counsel of record
and any unrepresented party.
January 20, 2017
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