Failed Birth Control Device: Thousands Seek Justice

Lori E. Andrus, Andrus Anderson, LLP

Lori E. Andrus, Andrus Anderson, LLP

How Group Litigation Can Hold Companies Accountable for Experimenting on Women’s Bodies

Anna Jennings, mother of two, was promised that the Essure birth control device was a safe, quick, and easy option for family planning. Sadly, it turned out to be anything but.

Essure is a small coil made from nickel and titanium alloy that is inserted into each fallopian tube as a nonsurgical alternative to having one’s tubes tied. Tragically, the device can perforate the tube and migrate around a woman’s abdomen. When this happens, women may have to undergo major surgery after all. Depending on how much damage the roving device causes, a hysterectomy is often necessary. Some women are alleged to have died from complications caused by Essure.

The companies that manufacture Essure are experimenting on women’s bodies, and it is my job as a lawyer to hold them accountable for the damage they have caused.

In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Essure device, which was created by Conceptus Inc. Since then, thousands of women like Anna – whose families were complete – began opting for this supposedly less invasive solution to prevent future pregnancies.

Thousands of women like Anna Jennings (left) are now suffering from severe side effects and complications they allege were caused by Essure.

Thousands of women like Anna Jennings (left) are now suffering from severe side effects and complications they allege were caused by Essure.

Thousands of women are now suffering from severe side effects and complications they allege were caused by Essure. These include allergic reactions (to the nickel contained in the Essure coil), chronic pain, excessive bleeding, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy.

Growing concerns about the safety of the device led the FDA to convene a meeting in September 2015.

During the meeting, Bayer, which took over production of Essure in 2013, admitted that it had received 15,000 reports from women throughout the U.S. claiming the device had caused some type of injury. Plaintiffs allege that Bayer and Conceptus wrongfully withheld this information for more than a decade.

In fact, a recent study by the National Center for Health Research suggests that the device fails nearly 10 percent of the time – causing lifelong injuries to scores of women who didn’t agree to experimental treatment.

Today, Bayer is required to warn women about dangers associated with Essure, but the device is still on the market. For the women who have already suffered because of injuries caused by Essure, these warnings did not come soon enough.

Fortunately, our civil justice system gives them an opportunity to join together to hold Bayer accountable for their injuries, and to protect other women from this harmful product.

You might have heard of class actions – where one person (or a handful of people) bring a lawsuit on behalf of a group of people who have been harmed by corporate wrongdoing. Class actions can be a powerful tool to hold a giant company accountable, but class actions aren’t the only form of group litigation. Class actions aren’t an appropriate procedure when individuals’ medical histories are at issue in litigation, since personal injuries raise too many individual issues to be tried on a representative basis.

Instead, cases like Anna’s are litigated as a “mass tort” – another type of group litigation. In a mass tort, people who have been harmed by the same dangerous – and even deadly – product, band together to seek justice. Each injured person’s claim remains an individual lawsuit, but the mass tort procedure allows for exposure of the corporations’ bad conduct through a single investigation during the lawsuit. Like class actions, this cuts down on costs to clients and saves judicial resources.

Mass tort cases are under attack in Congress right now. One bill that has already been approved by the House, H.R. 985, would deny groups of injured patients their right to join together to hold the responsible party accountable in court. Another bill that has been introduced in the House, H.R. 1215, will tip the scales in favor of the health care and insurance industries. 

Right now, thousands of women have come together in a mass tort to demand recourse for the horrific injuries caused by Essure. I represent dozens of those women, and I, like them, want to hasten the day when pharmaceutical companies stop experimenting on women’s bodies.

Through their pursuit of justice in court, these women have brought this issue to the forefront – uncovering what Bayer and Conceptus tried so hard to hide.

If each woman had to bring attention to the harm caused by Essure on her own, her voice may be silenced under the infinite resources of the powerful pharmaceutical manufacturer. When thousands of women unite, we have a stronger voice for standing up to large corporations, like Bayer. 

When companies like Bayer experiment on women’s bodies, they must be held accountable through litigation, and group litigation is the most effective and efficient method for seeking justice.