A woman was recently awarded $34 million by a Philadelphia jury in a case involving a defective IVC filter. Tracy Reed-Brown, of Georgia, had the filter surgically implanted in a vein in 2010. It was supposed to be removable, but the alleged defects rendered that impossible. And despite over three hours of surgery in 2016, doctors were unable to remove the filter. The IVC in question, which remains in Reed-Brown’s body, was manufactured by Rex Medical LP.
Reed-Brown’s attorney, David Matthews, said the IVC filter perforated Reed-Brown’s inferior vena cava. In addition, it punctured her aorta, renal vein, and pancreas. Matthews pointed to a study which suggested that Rex Medical’s filter was prone to failure.
Rosemary Pinto is another attorney representing Reed-Brown. She says that after the failed surgery in 2016, her client now has few, if any, medical options left. She can either try surgery again, or she can leave the IVC filter in her vein.
Rex Medical, in its defense, contended that Reed-Brown’s injuries were not due to design defects in the IVC filter. Rather, the company said, the device was improperly implanted at the time of surgery. Rex Medical also argued that Reed-Brown did not seek follow up medical attention after the 2010 implantation.
The $34 million IVC filter verdict is substantial, but the case is historic for other reasons. There are at least 700 lawsuits that have been filed against Rex Medical over its IVC filters. These have been consolidated into a mass tort program, with Reed-Brown’s case the first to go to trial. Other trials involving the IVC filters are expected.
Resembling a small wire basket, an IVC filter is surgically inserted into the inferior vena cava, or IVC. The function of the IVC is to transport blood from other parts of the body into the heart. This process, however, can also carry blood clots from other parts of the body. If these clots reach the heart or lungs, they may cause a pulmonary embolism. The IVC filter is designed to catch the clot and prevent this life-threatening condition from occurring.
Doctors usually do not prescribe IVC filters except in high risk situations. These are cases where other options are not viable. As one example, the IVC filter may be recommended where blood thinners cannot safely or effectively be used. IVC filters are prescribed in a variety of circumstances, such as:
- Treatment for cancer
- Treatment for car accidents and serious falls
- Emergency treatments
- Patients who recently gave birth
IVC filters carry numerous well-known risks. Among these are infection at the implantation site. Bruising and bleeding at the surgical site can also occur. In some cases, a blood vessel can be pierced while the filter is being placed. IVC filters have also been known to:
- Cross or twist their legs, causing complications
- Create blockages
- Be ineffective
- Migrate from the implantation site
Under the FDA’s guidance, IVC filters should be removed as soon as possible. This does not always happen, as in Reed-Brown’s case. When filters are not removed they can pierce internal organs and cause bleeding.
Manufacturers may be liable for design defects with IVC filters. However, sometimes doctors incorrectly implant the device during surgery. Cases involving IVC filters may result in numerous damages which form the basis of a lawsuit, including:
- Medical expenses (hospitalization and other treatments)
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Lost income and decreased earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional and mental distress
If you’ve suffered injuries due to an IVC filter, talk to your doctor and get the medical attention you need. When you are ready, contact an experienced product defect attorney. The sooner you act, the better. Depending on when your injury occurred, you could be facing looming deadlines to file.