Johnson and Johnson have been ordered to pay a New Jersey woman $20 million for a vaginal-mesh insert that left her in constant pain for nearly a decade.
A jury in Philadelphia came to the conclusion in late April that the company, who designed and distributed the TVT-Secur mesh, was responsible for the pain and discomfort that Margaret Engleman, 56, felt after having surgery in 2007 to have the vaginal-mesh inserted. The state-court panel awarded her $2.5 million and then ordered J&J and its Ethicon unit to pay $17.5 million in punitive damages.
Margaret Engleman stated that the TVT-Secur mesh was inserted into her body in 2012, right around the time that J&J voluntarily pulled four of its vagina-mesh lines from the market; the recall included the TVT-Secur mesh.
Engleman received her mesh, however, and her incontinence returns just months after having the surgery. This time, however, it was accompanied by what she calls “sharp stabbing pains” and made her condition worse.
She underwent multiple surgeries to remove the mesh, but it had already begun to degrade within her body; at the time the verdict was handed down, Engleman was still struggling with parts of the mesh her doctors have not been able to extract from her body.
The Mesh and Complications
The TVT-Secur mesh was designed by Ethicon to treat incontinence in women. The implant has been popular for over a decade because it was meant to fix the condition, which is caused by weakened abdominal organs after childbirth and with age.
The mesh implants, however, have problems of their own; the most common issue is that the mesh degrades inside the body over time and can pierce organs internally. This can cause not only the return of incontinence, but also far more significant problems, such as pain, discomfort, and organ issues.
J&J, Ethicon, and Vaginal-Mesh Recalls
J&J was ordered by regulators to do further studies on its lines of vaginal mesh, including the TVT-Secur mesh, back in 2012. The inserts were then subsequently pulled from the marketplace after mesh complications in thousands of women led to the Ethicon unit and its parent company, J&J, to court cases all over the country.
A Long-Standing Court Problem
This verdict is the first to award damages against J&J in more than a year; however, it is just one of the tens of thousands of lawsuits that have been filed against the healthcare giant all over the world. In fact, the company faced three additional trials in Philadelphia in the two months since the verdict was handed down.
The most recent vaginal-mesh verdicts against J&J came also from Philadelphia, where this case was filed, and the 2015 and 2016 cases resulted in monetary damages of $12.5 and $13.5 million, respectively.
Shortly after the case was settled in court, Ethicon released a statement that read in part: “We believe the evidence showed Ethicon’s TVT-Secur device was properly designed, Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the research, development and marketing of the product, and TVT-Secur was not the cause of the plaintiff’s continuing medical problems. Therefore, we are disappointed with today’s verdict and feel we have strong grounds for appeal.”
For her part, Engleman released an email statement the same day damages were awarded, saying that: “I’m happy I could be a voice for other women…it’s been a nightmare.”
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