I have written here many times about the problems with vaginal mesh, a category of medical device surgically implanted in the pelvis. Older women may consider having vaginal mesh implanted if they suffer a pelvic floor collapse, often from the stress that childbirth puts on the organs. The collapse can cause urinary problems as well as pain. Vaginal mesh became popular in the 1990s as a way to support the collapsed areas. Unfortunately, a growing number of women are now finding that surgically implanted vaginal mesh is defective, causing them pain, painful intercourse, infections, bleeding and recurrence of their original problems, sometimes because it erodes into the other areas of the pelvis. As a result, mesh manufacturers now face thousands of defective vaginal mesh lawsuits in the U.S. alone. According to Bloomberg News, some are now engaged in settlement talks.
About 30,000 lawsuits involving five manufacturers have been consolidated in West Virginia federal court. It’s those suits that are involved in the settlement talks, Bloomberg said. The manufacturers involved do not include Johnson & Johnson, a major medical device maker that faces more than 12,000 lawsuits over problems with its vaginal mesh products. The talks came after one of the involved manufacturers, C.R. Bard Inc., lost several individual claims. One was a 2012 California state-court lawsuit, in which the jury awarded $5.5 million, reduced to $3.6 million under state law. Another, in New Jersey state court, settled for an undisclosed sum just ahead of a late-September trial. And a federal lawsuit from the consolidated West Virginia cases led to a $2 million award to a Georgia woman.
Some of the vaginal mesh problems could have been prevented if the medical devices had gone through the FDA’s normal careful approval process. But the agency said they didn’t need to be tested before they were approved in the 1990s. Some were approved on the coattails of a vaginal sling recalled in 1999 after it didn’t function as intended; others may have relied on surgical mesh for other areas of the body. In the space of three years, the FDA first announced that complications exist but are rare, and then admitted that they are not rare. That second announcement added that it’s not clear whether repairs with mesh are more effective than repairs without it. It is clear that this surgery, routine with older women, is much more profitable for medical device manufacturers when they are permitted to sell an untested device to millions of women per year.
All of this may have led Bard and the other device makers to believe settlement would be the smarter option. Bloomberg’s informants believed that the total number of suits in the settlement could swell to 50,000 cases before it’s through, as more injured women file vaginal mesh lawsuits and join the settlement. A product liability law professor told Bloomberg that liability is pretty clear in these cases, which also makes settlement a good choice. And because the injuries are fairly serious and the claimants number in the thousands, he said, settlements are likely to be in the billions of dollars. The injuries include mesh passing through the vaginal wall and poking into other organs of the pelvis, causing pain, infection, bleeding and nerve damage. It can even perforate pelvic organs. The mesh must be surgically removed, a difficult procedure that often takes multiple surgeries.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries from defective vaginal mesh implants or another dangerous medical device, Carey, Danis & Lowe can help. To learn more or set up a free consultation, call us today at 1-877-678-3400 or send us a message online.
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