Paragard copper IUD lawsuits filed by women from 23 states were grouped together and transferred to federal court in Atlanta late last year, where they will be heard by U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May in the District of Northern Georgia. The transfer order applies to 55 Paragard lawsuits originally filed across 31 federal districts.
Currently, more than 80 Paragard lawsuits are pending in more than 36 federal districts. Additional Paragard lawsuits may be included at a later date.
The decision to consolidate the Paragard lawsuits was made in December by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Legislation, which decides whether and where to consolidate related federal lawsuits in a single district — which is called multidistrict litigation. The panel features seven federal judges and is informally known as the “MDL Panel.”
The lawsuits allege that Paragard IUD (intrauterine device) can break during removal, leading to complications and injuries such as infertility and pain, and sometimes requiring surgeries to remove broken-off pieces left behind in the body. Together, the lawsuits raise questions about Paragard’s development, manufacturing, testing, labeling, and marketing, according to the MDL Panel.
Paragard manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. opposed centralization of the Paragard lawsuits. The written response was submitted jointly by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA along with sister and parent companies Teva Women’s Health, Inc., Teva Women’s Health, LLC, Teva Branded Pharmaceutical Products R&D, Inc., The Cooper Companies, Inc., and CooperSurgical, Inc.
Grouping related individual lawsuits together is more efficient and cost-effective for the federal court system. Consolidation also typically makes the lawsuit process easier for ordinary citizens filing lawsuits against large companies with typically much greater resources.
In December, Atlanta attorney Robert Hammers urged the MDL panel to transfer the Paragard lawsuits to Judge May, in part because of her gender. Hammers represents women who allege injury from Paragard.
“We believe that she’s the best judge to get this of all (the judges) proposed because she’s a woman and this is a woman’s product dealing with women’s issues,” Hammers told the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Legislation.
Paragard IUD (intrauterine device) is the only nonhormonal IUD of the five IUDs currently available in the United States. Paragard relies on biochemical reactions from copper in the device to prevent pregnancy.
By Carah Wertheimer
Carah Wertheimer is an editor and reporter based in Boulder, Colorado. Her areas of specialization include food, health, environment, social justice and community reporting. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, The Denver Post, The Daily Beast, the Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder Weekly and other publications.