Huge Jury Verdict for Vaginal Mesh Plaintiff

A New Jersey jury awarded a South Dakota woman $3.35 million dollars on Monday for failing to adequately warn her doctor of the potential risks of a vaginal mesh implant made by Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary, as well as misrepresentation of the product in brochures.

A New Jersey jury awarded a South Dakota woman $3.35 million dollars on Monday for failing to adequately warn her doctor of the potential risks of a vaginal mesh implant made by Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary, as well as misrepresentation of the product in brochures.   The jury is currently deliberating whether to award punitive damages in the case, which can amount to almost $16 million dollars in additional payments owed to the woman by Johnson & Johnson.

The case, brought by Linda Gross of South Dakota, was brought in Atlantic City, NJ, Superior Court.  It was the first verdict among almost 2,000 similar cases pending in New Jersey state court against Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson.  Observers expect this verdict could ultimately have an impact on thousands of lawsuits against manufacturers of similar devices.

The jury agreed with the plaintiff that the Gynecare Prolift vaginal mesh (made by Ethicon) was not safe and that the manufacturers were liable for “their defective design, manufacture, warnings and instructions.”

The Ethicon product, taken off the U.S. market in 2012, had been used to treat pelvic organ prolapse, a condition for which the plaintiff, a nurse, was treated in November 2008.

Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when tissue holding the pelvic organs in place is weakened or stretched and bulges into the vagina. There are different types of this prolapse condition, which usually occurs after menopause, childbirth or a hysterectomy. Vaginal mesh was also used by many doctors to treat a severe form of urinary incontinence, called stress incontinence.

The New Jersey plaintiff filed her lawsuit after having surgery in 2006 to install a Gyncare Prolift for pelvic prolapse. She alleged the surgery led to a variety of problems, including mesh erosion, scar tissue, inflammation and “neurologic compromise to … structures and tissue.”

The plaintiff said she was required to seek medical treatment and had 18 operations to repair the damage caused by the mesh.

Adam Slater, Gross’ attorney, told jurors in his Feb. 15 summation: “We’ve established during this trial that this is something that never should have been sold. You had the words of the people at the company saying it shouldn’t have been sold. You saw them talking about that before it ever went on the market, that it was unreasonably dangerous.”

Ben Anderson, a member of the trail team for the plaintiff, called the jury verdict “a strong statement to Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon that they cannot put profits before women’s safety.”

The verdict, by a panel of six women and three men, followed a six-week trial before Judge Carol Higbee. After the verdict was delivered, the judge ruled that she will allow arguments on punitive damages. Those hearings are scheduled for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

Sheri Woodruff, a spokeswoman for Ethicon, said, “While we are always concerned when a patient experiences medical conditions like those suffered by the plaintiff, all surgeries for pelvic organ prolapse present risks of complications.”

She said she could not comment further.

There is similar litigation going on against manufacturers of Ethicon’s competitors.  These defendants include Boston Scientific Corp, C.R. Bard Inc., Coloplast, and American Medical Systems Inc.

Last year, jurors in a state court in Bakersfield, California, said C.R. Bard was liable for $3.6 million in the first case over the vaginal mesh devices to go to trial. The panel found the plaintiff and her husband were entitled to a total of $5.5 million for her medical expenses, pain, suffering and other damages resulting from Bard’s Avaulta Plus device.

In June 2012, Johnson & Johnson announced that it had stopped selling the vaginal mesh following lawsuits that allege it caused infections and bleeding. On Monday, the company said there were 4,000 pending lawsuits against it involving the vaginal mesh product  in the United States.

The case is Gross v. Gynecare Inc., Superior Court of Atlantic County, New Jersey, Atl-L-6966-10.

Source: http://bangordailynews.com/2013/02/25/news/nation/jury-awards-3-35-million-in-vaginal-mesh-lawsuit/?ref=latest

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