Ever since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its July 13th notification that complications from the implantation of surgical mesh in women are “not rare”, (see here) the mesh manufacturers were put on notice that women suffering in silence from the effects of synthetic surgical mesh would soon find their voice with the help of counsel.
And that’s exactly what is happening.
Personal injury law firms in the U.S., Canada, and United Kingdom report a surge of inquiries from women experiencing complications from pelvic organ prolapse treated with transvaginal mesh.
So far 600 lawsuits have been filed against nine mesh makers, C.R. Bard, Boston Scientific, Ethicon (Johnson & Johnson), and American Medical Systems (acquired by Endo Pharmaceuticals), among others.
On television, radio and even online, mesh case solicitations abound. I spoke to a friend who is a radio host the other day and she asked me what I was working on. “Oh those ads” she said with a bit of disdain. It seems nobody likes lawyers unless you need one.
Stephanie Mencimer writes in her excellent book, Blocking the Courthouse Door, so-called greedy trial lawyers and irresponsible plaintiffs “are the result of a concerted and successful campaign by large corporations to get this issue on the table and thus limit their own vulnerability in the civil justice system.”
These have been very effective campaigns to turn the public against lawyers. So whether you like attorneys or not, the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution still allows you to find a remedy in court.
What should consumers look for when choosing a law firm?
Watch out for online solicitations
Consumers are asked to send off personal information to someone who claims to be a consultant. She sounds friendly and compassionate enough. See the Topix website , but you really don’t know who this person is. She could be soliciting cases to pass around as a lawyer referral service, or could be working for industry trying to uncover cases before they are filed. An injured mesh patient really doesn’t know. And even if you do trust this person, sending information off and not hearing thing is an enormous time waster. Remember- a statute of limitations applies to the time limit within which you must file your case.
Once you find a lawyer you might like to work with, questions might include:
Are you handling cases yourself?
If they are handling cases ask how many do you have and what is your expertise? If not, ask who will handle the case and what role does your law firm play? Even a firm that has no intention of taking a case to trial will advertise for cases to refer it to a larger firm and either receive a finder’s fee or work in concert with the firm to provide the services of local counsel, again for a fee.
If it is a small law firm, ask if they have the resources to go the distance. Product liability lawsuits can take years while the firm must shell out money for experts and depositions to prepare the case. Do they have the resources? If a larger firm, what types of similar medical device cases have they handled and what was the outcome?
How do you work with clients?
Ask “Who will my contact person be and how long does it take to return phone calls?” No one wants to feel as though they have been abandoned after providing very personal information to a stranger.
The personal element
At the end of the day it may come down to how comfortable you feel with that lawyer or law firm. Ask yourself first what you want out of the case – Money for medical bills? To right a wrong? Be sure your attorney understands your motivation. If you need cash immediately to pay bills and avoid bankruptcy you are probably not in it for the long haul that a product liability case will take.
Product liability or medical malpractice?
All mesh injury cases are not equal. At the end of the day your case may be rejected because the doctor appeared incompetent and was negligent in the placement of mesh. Make sure you understand which direction your law firm is taking in that they generally cannot pursue both at the same time.
Law firms must prove by the preponderance of the evident, that is greater than 50 percent, that synthetic surgical mesh was the substantial contributing factor to the injury you have. A medical malpractice case will blame the doctor. They are not the same type of case.
Are you guaranteed an outcome?
If the law firm guarantees you an outcome – Run not walk out the door! Not only is it unethical to do so, it is not realistic. No attorney can tell you how long a case will take and what will be the result at the end of the day. #