How Long Will My IVC Filter Case Take?

It’s difficult to predict whether your IVC filter case will settle or go to trial. But here’s what you need to know about potential timelines.

Updated by , J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

If you're suffering from complications from an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter, you might be thinking about suing the manufacturer of the filter, the medical professionals who surgically implanted the filter, or both.

Before you decide whether to file an IVC filter lawsuit, you probably want to know how long the process will take. It's hard to predict specifics, but IVC filter cases— like other kinds of personal injury lawsuits— move through distinct stages. And some factors that can influence the timeline of your case are in your control.

In this article, we'll look at the timeline possibilities for IVC filter lawsuits, and touch on some other key issues to keep in mind if you're thinking about pursuing this kind of case.

The Stages of a Typical IVC Filter Lawsuit

An IVC filter lawsuit usually goes through the following stages:

  • The injured person (the "plaintiff") files a civil complaint in court. The complaint is the document that starts the lawsuit. The complaint outlines the plaintiff's case against the company that manufactured the IVC filter (like C.R. Bard or Cook Medical) and/or the medical professionals who implanted the filter (the "defendants").
  • The defendants file an answer to the complaint.
  • The discovery process begins: The plaintiff and defendants exchange information, medical records, and other evidence through written questions (interrogatories), sworn testimony (depositions), and document requests.
  • The parties argue pre-trial motions (called "motions in limine") to persuade the judge to allow or keep out certain evidence at trial (for example, testimony from a proposed expert witness).
  • Trial: The plaintiff and defendants present their evidence and arguments and the judge or jury decides whether the defendants should compensate the plaintiff for health problems and other losses stemming from IVC filter complications.

Factors That Can Influence the Timeline of Your IVC Filter Case

IVC filter lawsuits are complicated, whether you're arguing that the IVC filter was defective (product liability), or that the medical professional who treated you made an unreasonable mistake (medical malpractice).

First, you'll have to file your lawsuit within the strictly-enforced time limits set in your state (set by a law called a "statute of limitations").

Next, the complexity of your case will affect the timeline. IVC filter lawsuits usually involve piles of medical records and multiple expert witnesses on both sides, which means some stages, like discovery and pretrial motions, will undoubtedly take longer than they might in a less complicated lawsuit (like a slip and fall or car accident case).

The court's calendar might also affect the timeline of your case. If the calendar is clogged because of COVID-19 delays, or for some other reason, hearing and trial dates can be postponed for weeks or months.

Finally, the timeline of your IVC filter lawsuit might depend on whether your lawsuit has been grouped into a multi-district litigation (MDL) action. Thousands of IVC filter lawsuits, most involving Bard or Cook Medical as one of the defendants, have been consolidated in one of two MDLs in Arizona or Indiana.

Your IVC Filter Case Can Settle at Any Time

Most IVC filter lawsuits can settle at any time. For example, soon after filing the complaint, your attorney can send a demand letter to the other side, detailing your injuries and asking for a certain dollar amount as compensation. This letter could spur serious settlement talks, and if a settlement agreement is reached before trial, you can choose to dismiss the lawsuit in exchange for settlement money.

Most cases do settle, especially as lawsuits move closer to trial (or after bellwether trials in an MDL proceeding) and parties get a better sense of the evidence and the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments. And even if the two sides don't come together on their own to try to resolve the case out of court, most judges require plaintiffs and defendants to attend at least one mandatory settlement conference before trial begins. (Learn more about how personal injury settlements work.)

How Do "Damages" Affect the Timeline of an IVC Filter Case?

In the language of the law, "damages" refers to the nature and extent of an injured person's losses. In the context of an IVC filter lawsuit, the more significant the plaintiff's damages, the longer the case is likely to take. When there's more at stake (for both sides), there's more to argue over, and less common ground.

Damages are paid by the defendant in the lawsuit. (in IVC filter cases. Whether your IVC filter case settles out of court or you receive a judgment in your favor after a trial, the money you receive is considered damages.

How Much Is My IVC Filter Case Worth?

To answer this question, let's look at some common categories of damages in an IVC filter lawsuit.

Cost of Past and Future Medical Care

This includes any medical treatment you've received as a result of health problems linked to a failing IVC filter (including additional surgical attempts to repair, replace, or remove the problematic device), and any care you'll need in the future.

Lost Income and Diminished Earning Capacity

If health complications resulting from a failing IVC filter have forced you to take time off from your job, or have otherwise affected your ability to earn a living, that kind of economic harm will also factor into your damages. In "legalese," an award based on future income is characterized as compensation for the injured person's "loss of earning capacity" or "diminished earning capacity."

"Pain and Suffering" In an IVC Filter Case

This category of damages plays a big part in determining how much you can expect to receive in an injury case, and is often broken down into two types:

  • Physical pain and suffering comes from your actual physical injuries, such as the discomfort resulting from your health complications and the course of care necessary to treat it (including additional surgeries).
  • Mental pain and suffering can be viewed as the subjective psychological impact of your physical pain. This includes anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, fear, anger, humiliation, anxiety, shock, sleeplessness, and other negative effects.

Learn more about pain and suffering in a personal injury case.

Can I Sue If My IVC Filter Hasn't Caused Me Problems?

Personal injury lawsuits typically require plaintiffs to prove that the defendant's wrongdoing caused actual injuries, which is why having a medical diagnosis is a key step in most mass tort cases. But some non-injured plaintiffs implanted with IVC filters are suing manufacturers for the anticipated long-term costs of monitoring the devices.

A minority of states allow non-injured plaintiffs to pursue claims for "medical monitoring" when they've been exposed to hazards (like asbestos). To bring this kind of claim, non-injured plaintiffs with IVC filters would likely have to prove:

  • they've been implanted with a hazardous filter
  • they have an increased risk of serious illness or injury caused by the defendant's negligence or wrongful conduct
  • a medical test for early detection exists and is reasonably necessary, and
  • medical monitoring is beyond a patient's ordinary course of treatment in connection with the device.

For more information on medical monitoring claims (including whether they're an option in your state), talk to an attorney.

A Good IVC Filter Lawyer Can Help You Sort Through Your Options

If you've been injured by an IVC filter, you should talk to an experienced attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer will explain the relevant laws and court procedures, including MDLs, and the full range of your strategic options. An attorney can present the pros and cons of settlement, and navigate your case toward the best possible outcome.

A Lawyer Will Handle Your IVC Filter Case on a "Contingency Fee" Basis

Chances are a lawyer will handle your IVC filter lawsuit on a "contingency fee" basis. This means if you reach an out-of-court settlement, or you win your lawsuit at trial, your lawyer will be paid a percentage of what you receive—usually around one-third of the total.

If you don't receive any money from the other side, your lawyer doesn't get paid. It's important to read the fine print of any attorney-client contract before you sign it, and understand whether you'll be on the hook for expenses or "costs" associated with your injury case if you don't end up with a trial win or settlement.

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