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J&J Ordered to Pay $80M Over Victim’s Vaginal Mesh Injuries

By: Allan M. Siegel

On May 17, 2019 a Philadelphia jury said pharmaceutical conglomerate Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Ethicon must pay $80 million in damages to a woman who suffered serious health consequences caused by the vaginal mesh implant used to treat her pelvic organ prolapse.

The verdict stems from the case of a 79-year-old Philadelphia woman who claimed the vaginal mesh implant she received in 2008 eroded and caused inflammation, infection, and chronic pain.

The suit is one of many injury lawsuits to implicate transvaginal mesh products, which are used to repair weakened pelvic tissues. Here are a few details about the verdict:

  • The verdict included $30 million in compensatory damages (the largest award for such damages in a vaginal mesh case to date) and $50 million punitive damages, which are intended to further punish and deter acts of egregious wrongdoing;
  • Jurors agreed with the victim’s claims that Ethicon’s Prolift mesh was defective, and that J&J failed to adequately provide consumers and physicians with warnings about risks associated with its use in treating pelvic organ prolapse. Prolift was removed from the market in 2012.
  • Ethicon has publicly issued a statement disagreeing with the decision, and announced its intent to appeal the verdict.

History of Vaginal Mesh Lawsuits & Prior Cases

The $80M verdict comes on the heels of another multi-million vaginal mesh verdict on April 24. In that case, also filed in Philadelphia state court, a jury awarded $120 million to a woman severely injured by Ethicon’s TVT-O mesh product, which had been used to treat her urinary incontinence. That verdict, which Ethicon has said it will also appeal, was the largest overall mesh verdict to date. It included $20 million for the victim’s damages, and $100 million in punitive damages against Ethicon / J&J.

The pair of high-value verdicts in less than a month are just the latest in a long history of claims filed by thousands of women nationwide who say they were harmed by dangerous mesh products used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence.

  • As of March 31, Ethicon / J&J has faced nearly 30,000 pending lawsuits in the U.S. over alleged injures associated with its pelvic mesh products. A number of cases were consolidated, and many of those resolved, into multi-district litigation (MDL).
  • Including both the $80M and $120M verdicts, Philadelphia juries have decided in favor of mesh injury victims eight times, awarding a total of $346 million in that jurisdiction alone.
  • In April, the FDA ordered Boston Scientific and Danish-based Coloplast, the last two companies still selling vaginal mesh products, to immediately stop selling mesh indicated for pelvic organ prolapse repair. The agency also rejected premarket approval applications from both companies.
  • In March, the FDA’s panel on Obstetrics and Gynecology Devices announced there was a lack of evidence about the long-term safety and effectiveness of vaginal mesh, and that physicians should exercise more selectivity when using such products to treat patients.
  • Prompted by a 2012 panel report, the FDA in 2016 placed transvaginal mesh into the highest-risk category for medical devices (Class III). The move placed additional requirements for manufacturers to submit new applications and evidence about the safety of their products, and prompted many to exit the vaginal mesh market entirely.

Corporate Accountability & Civil Justice

Over recent years, CSCS has covered litigation against J&J and other manufacturers facing claims that transvaginal mesh products with high rates of erosion, rejection, and perforation caused serious infections, injuries, and pain and suffering in victims.

While verdicts and settlements in favor of these victims are a reassuring trend that juries have a clear picture of manufacturers’ failures, companies like J&J still vehemently deny the allegations, aggressively appeal decisions, and continue to exhibit many of the same patterns, shortcuts, and failures that ultimately harm consumers.

J&J, for example:

  • Recently became the target for thousands of lawsuits filed by women who claim their use of the company’s talcum powder products caused ovarian cancer, and was hit with a massive $4.7 billion verdict in December;
  • Has many other products associated with a serious injuries and deaths associated, including medications Xarelto and Risperdal and DuPuy artificial hips;
  • Earned the a spot on the American Association for Justice’s Worst Corporate Conduct list.

J&J is unfortunately just one of many entities – be they product manufacturers, commercial trucking operators, or even institutions like the Catholic Church – to serve as a compelling reminder about the need to ensure accountability on the part our largest and most powerful corporations and organizations. These entities typically have priorities (primarily profits) which come before people, the ability to fast-track and short-cut regulations (or pay enough money to shape them in their favor), and ultimately little reason to do the right thing.

As civil trial lawyers, we’re motivated by the need to ensure accountability, change, and – most importantly for our clients – due justice and compensation. Even though such efforts are taken after victims suffer harm, they’re often the only way to hold bad actors accountable, and show the public the true scope of their egregious and often dangerous conduct.

If you have questions about personal injury and your legal rights, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is available to help. Our firm serves clients across Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Contact us for a free consultation.