The New Jersey lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon over the company’s Prolift vaginal mesh device kit has been resolved. The verdict in the first vaginal mesh lawsuit to go to trial resulted in the plaintiff being awarded $3.3 million.
Now that the verdict is in for this long-anticipated trial, many now believe that other vaginal mesh lawsuits against Ethicon and C.R. Bard will start to be settled. Both Ethicon and C.R. Bard make transvaginal mesh devices and both companies have been sued over complication linked to them. With Ethicon’s recent loss, (C.R. Bard already lost a case), experts are now predicting that the 100,000-plus cases that are still pending in the courts will result in losses nearing $20 billion, which would make it one of the largest product liability settlements of all time.
Vaginal mesh lawsuits have been filed against numerous other makers of various mesh devices, including Coloplast, American Medical Systems and Boston Scientific. The lawsuits all claim failure to warn once it was discovered that the vaginal mesh devices were causing complications that often required surgical removal of the device to correct. Some of those complications include erosion, infections, vaginal scarring and painful intercourse.
Transvaginal mesh devices are used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. Both conditions can occur as a result childbirth or menopause. During the trial for this lawsuit, which was filed by Linda Gross, Ethicon tried to claim that the plaintiff’s pains were not caused by the Prolift vaginal mesh device kit, and that doctor error in implanting the kit is what caused the problems. However, Ethicon’s own witnesses seemed to admit that the devices were dangerous and prone to complications. In fact, one of the witnesses for Ethicon claimed that the Prolift device wasn’t safe for plaintiff Linda Gross or anyone else in her age bracket.
“Nowadays, based on these data, we can only advise that caution be exercised when carrying out this new procedure,” wrote French researchers who were trying to perfect the mesh. “In fact, experimental studies and clinical trials seem necessary in order to reduce the level of exposure to less than 5 percent of cases.”
This information was only the icing on the cake for the plaintiff, whose lawyers were ready for all of Ethicon’s experts. It seemed that each expert who testified for Ethicon ended up either contradicting their defense of the safety of the device kits or outright admitted that mesh kits were dangerous. One expert, Dr. Miles Murphy, Ethicon’s urogynecology expert, even tried to demonstrate the safety of the device when trying to defend Ethicon’s claims that it was doctor error during implant surgery causing “the roping effect” during surgery, and was thwarted when the demonstration ended up corroborating the complaint.
This jury award may set the precedent for future cases against manufacturers of vaginal mesh device kits and possibly find manufacturers more willing to negotiate settlements.