A Georgia woman whose internal organs were punctured and damaged by a tiny filter implanted in one of her veins was awarded $33.7 million Monday by a Philadelphia jury. This was the first case to go to trial as part of a mass tort program of nearly 800 involving Option-brand IVC filters made by Rex Medical LP.
In September 2010, surgeons placed an Option filter in Tracy Reed-Brown’s inferior vena cava (IVC) – a large vein that delivers blood from the lower part of the body to the heart. The filter was designed to capture blood clots before they reach the lungs, a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism. The filter was designed to be removable. But, six years after having the filter implanted, doctors discovered that the filter had perforated her vein and punctured her pancreas, aorta and renal vein.
In January 2017, surgeons performed a three-hour procedure to remove the filter in Reed-Brown’s body, but were unsuccessful. The IVC filter remains in her body, threatening to cause more harm. Reed-Brown sued Rex Medical, accusing the company of defectively designing the device.
During heated testimony, Rex Medical co-founder James McGuckin said that he could remove the plaintiff’s device that day, which caused Reed-Brown to break out in tears and leave the courtroom. Judge Michael Erdos admonished McGuckin for speaking directly to the plaintiff.
Reed-Brown’s attorney called the company’s executive “unethical” for having the “audacity” to address his client in open court, and reminded jurors of an email exchange between McGuckin and another executive in which McGuckin bashed a doctor participating in clinical trials when he raised red flags about the pressure needed to remove the device in a clinical trial participant.
Reed-Brown’s lawsuit alleges the company was in such a rush to get its Option IVC filter on the market that it pressured doctors to reevaluate whether complications experienced during clinical trials were the fault of the device.
The $33.7 million verdict includes $30.3 million in punitive damages, and is the fourth trial among seven against various IVC filter manufacturers to go in favor of plaintiffs.