Federal Court Denies Class Certification in Medical Products Liability Claim

A U.S. District Judge in Pittsburgh has denied a plaintiff’s motion to certify a class in a products liability lawsuit. In Haggart v. Endogastric Solutions, Inc., the plaintiff claimed that a medical device manufacturer failed to warn of certain risks associated with a device used to treat his gastroesophageal condition. The court ruled that he failed to demonstrate the prerequisites for class certification, finding that the potential class members did not have the common experiences or interests that would make a class action an efficient way to resolve their claims.

The plaintiff, Daniel Haggard, suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition where stomach contents, including stomach acid, flow back into the esophagus. It causes irritation to the esophagus and conditions like heartburn. He declined a common device used to treat GERD, known as a Nissen Fundoplication, because it required permanent implantation. He opted for a device known a an EsophyX, allegedly based on representations from the manufacturer, defendant Endogastric Solutions, that the procedure is “reversible.”
He had the device implanted in June 2009, but he learned three months later that the device had failed to properly implant. On his doctor’s advice, he went ahead with the Nissen Fundoplication, and he learned that the EsophyX was not “reversible,” but rather “revisable.” The fasteners for the EsophyX were not removable, because tissue had grown around them. This allegedly foreclosed other medical options that might have otherwise been available. After the Nissen Fundoplication, he alleged that his GERD symptoms grew worse.

His lawsuit, originally filed on March 16, 2010, asserted products liability claims for false or misleading marketing and other alleged fraudulent statements. He moved the court to certify a class of plaintiffs consisting of everyone who underwent the EsophyX since September 24, 2007, or alternatively, everyone who underwent the procedure in that time period based on the defendant’s representations that the procedure was “reversible,” or a similar representation.

The court denied the plaintiff’s motion for class certification on June 28, 2012, finding that the motion failed to meet any of the requirements of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 23(a) has four requirements, summarized by the court as “numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy.” A class must be large enough that it would be impractical to join all members as plaintiffs. Class members must each be in a substantially similar situation to the plaintiff. They must also have substantially similar, or “typical,” legal claims. Finally, the plaintiff or class representative must be able to adequately represent the interests of all class members.

The court found that the plaintiff failed to meet, at a minimum, the commonality and typicality requirements. He apparently conceded that most EsophyX procedures were successful, and he did not prove that other putative class members had injuries, such as the need for follow-up procedures, similar to his. The court also found that the plaintiff could not identify the number of people who relied on certain specific statements by the defendant in opting for the EsophyX procedure. Essentially, the court found that class certification was inappropriate because the plaintiff’s injuries were too personal to his own situation.

Lebowitz & Mzhen’s attorneys are skilled at pursuing justice for people in Maryland who have been injured by faulty, dangerous, or defective products. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

Web Resources:

Plaintiff’s Motion for Class Certification (PDF), Haggart v. Endogastric Solutions, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, November 16, 2011
Opinion of Plaintiff’s Motion for Class Certification (PDF), Haggart v. Endogastric Solutions, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, June 28, 2012

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Dangerous Medical Device?: Woman Files Cold Therapy Lawsuit Against DeRoyal Industries Alleging Tissue Damage, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 18, 2011
Products Liability Lawsuits Cost Bausch & Lomb Over $250 Million, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 1, 2009
US Lawmakers Seek to Reinstate Right to Sue Medical Device Makers for Personal Injury and Wrongful Death, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 19, 2009

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