A Philadelphia jury recently handed down a large verdict against Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Ethicon for injuries suffered by a woman due to transvaginal mesh. The verdict was the latest in a long series of jury verdicts against the company for defects in the product that have injured patients. Although the FDA has recently ordered a halt to sales of transvaginal mesh, there are still thousands of lawsuits making their way through the system due to the large number of injuries suffered by women who received the mesh.
Transvaginal mesh was used to treat pelvic organ prolapse, which is a common condition that affects approximately one in five women. It is a synthetic product that is made out of a type of plastic. However, there have been numerous complications that have been associated with the product. One of the most common and severe of the side effects is that the mesh degrades over time. When that happens, it tends to shift out of position and impact internal organs located near the side of the mesh. This can lead to either infections or perforated organs. Some women have had to undergo numerous surgeries which has resulted in crippling lifelong pain. To make matters worse, there have been reports of hundreds of deaths associated with transvaginal mesh.
Reports of side effects from the transvaginal mesh date back many years. Many of the manufacturers of the product exited the market due to the fact that the negative publicity was depressing sales and the potential large legal liability. In fact, by April 2019, there were only two sellers of the product left in the market, and their overall sales were small. At that time, the FDA, which had undertaken to review the safety of the product, ordered the two remaining manufacturers to remove the product from the marketplace. The regulator had no reasonable assurance that the product was safe for use.
The particular plaintiff in this case suffered from similar complications to tens of thousands of other women. After her mesh eroded, she suffered from infections and inflammation and had to undergo numerous surgeries. As a result, she has lifelong pain and other effects. She filed suit against Johnson & Johnson as the latest in a long series of cases to reach Philadelphia courts.
In general, Philadelphia has been a challenging jurisdiction for Johnson & Johnson. Juries in the city have been sympathetic to the pain and suffering experienced by plaintiffs. In fact, the month before this case was decided, a Philadelphia jury awarded a plaintiff $120 million in a transvaginal mesh lawsuit. This particular case was the ninth jury verdict in a transvaginal mesh case. While Johnson & Johnson has prevailed in two Philadelphia cases, one of those two defense verdicts was overturned by the trial court.
Here, the reason why the verdict was so large was because the jury hit Johnson & Johnson with punitive damages. Juries will do this when there is something about the defendant’s conduct that is egregious and wrong. In this case, Johnson & Johnson failed to warn people of the risks of the product which is clearly knew about. Instead of telling potential users of the possible harm resulting from erosion of the device, the company misled the medical community by telling them that the product was safe for use. There was evidence presented at these trials that Johnson & Johnson has known about these issues for years, even dating back to the beginning when it sought FDA approval for the mesh.
In addition to the $50 million in punitive damages, the plaintiff also received $30 million of compensatory damages, which is the highest amount that any jury has awarded for pain and suffering. The damages included multiple surgeries to remove scar tissue and deal with infections, continued pain and discomfort during intercourse and fractured family relationships. This jury verdict is an ominous sign for the company’s future legal defenses.
For Johnson & Johnson, the litigation risk goes far beyond the cases that it has lost in Philadelphia. The company faces over 22,000 lawsuits, including 80 in Philadelphia where it has been battered by the large verdicts. The company may have to begin settlement negotiations given its poor track record in defending these suits. The prospect of large legal liability has served to depress the company’s stock price. The company has indicated that it plans to appeal the verdict. Many large verdicts such as these are reduced on appeal, although the overall finding of liability mostly remains in place.
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Sadaka Associates are well-versed in litigating transvaginal mesh cases. If you or a loved one has suffered complications or injuries due to transvaginal mesh, contact the office today for a free evaluation of your case.
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