Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is facing sanction after a judge in West Virginia found that the company destroyed a number of documents related to the current multidistrict litigation over transvaginal mesh, Mass Device reports. Ethicon has been involved in the litigation for the past several years, with thousands of plaintiffs alleging that the devices caused severe complications.
Last year, plaintiffs requested that the U.S. District Court for Southern West Virginia, where cases are consolidated, impose “severe sanctions” on Ethicon for allegedly mishandling and destroying tens of thousands of documents related to the lawsuits.
The missing documents “should have been preserved in anticipation of this litigation,” stated Magistrate Judge Cheryl Eifert. “…plaintiffs are entitled to monetary sanctions to compensate them for the additional time spent by their counsel piecing together missing custodial files and preparing for depositions of key employees for whom scant information was provided by Ethicon.” Eifert also recommended to the presiding district judge that the plaintiffs be allowed to introduce evidence of spoliation at trial on a case-by-case basis. “Spoliation of evidence” is when evidence is purposefully destroyed or hidden with regards to a legal proceeding.
Johnson & Johnson isn’t the only one facing lawsuits over transvaginal mesh devices. C.R. Bard, Boston Scientific, Endo Health Solutions, Cook Medical and Coloplast are also being sued by thousands of people alleging that their mesh implants are defective and caused personal injury. These cases have also been consolidated into the multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for Southern West Virginia under Judge Joseph Goodwin.
Transvaginal mesh implants are used to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, but thousands of women allege that these devices caused severe and painful complications. Among other issues, it is alleged that transvaginal mesh implants can become embedded in the body. A number of cases point out that these devices were approved without any clinical testing because they were approved through 510(k), which waives clinical testing for certain devices if they are argued to be “substantially equivalent” to an older device.