With allegations of surgical mesh complications, pharmaceutical conglomerate Johnson & Johnson (J&J) lost its fourth surgical mesh lawsuit after a Philadelphia jury returned a verdict of $2.16 million against J&J and its subsidiary Ethicon Women’s Health and Urology (Ethicon). This is the fourth loss for J&J in as many trials, marking a trend in lawsuits claiming surgical mesh complications.
Pelvic Mesh Complications
Filed in 2013, this lawsuit is part of the pelvic mesh mass tort (a civil action involving numerous plaintiffs against one or a few corporate defendants) in Philadelphia. The plaintiff from Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, underwent treatment for Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) with Ethicon’s Gynecare Prolift pelvic, one year after the introduction of the product in 2006. POP occurs when the muscles and tissues of the pelvic floor can no longer support pelvic organs such as the bowel, bladder or uterus. The organs may then drop from the normal position or prolapse, into the vagina. Although, not a life-threatening occurrence, women may suffer lower back pain, pelvic pressure, constipation, or urinary problems.
The plaintiff in the recent mesh lawsuit soon after implantation, suffered unnamed complications similar to surgical mesh side effects experienced by others. Attempts to take out the plaintiff’s allegedly problematic mesh failed. Ethicon’s Prolife product was withdrawn from the market seven years after it was made available in 2012.
Because of the failure to successfully remove the mesh, the plaintiff is expected to be facing ongoing pelvic discomfort, making the plaintiff’s injuries “permanent,” according to court records. She may decide to undergo further pain injections, resection of the mesh, or to start taking pain medications regularly, but these choices at best will only alleviate her symptoms. She has to live with constant pelvic pain, a feeling that her bladder is pulling, urinary incontinence and retention, lower flank pain, urinary tract infections, and severe pain with sex that lingers days after the fact. It is alleged she will be at risk for erosion of the mesh into her bladder, urethra, or other organs for the rest of her life.
National law firm Parker Waichman LLP has extensive experience and success in medical device litigation, including lawsuits involving surgical mesh products. The firm’s attorneys are available to answer legal questions from individuals seeking information for a potential lawsuit.
What is Surgical Mesh?
The mesh is fabricated from animal tissue or synthetic materials and can be absorbable, non-absorbable, or a combination of both. Absorbable mesh loses its strength over time and is not meant as a long-term reinforcement, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The absorbable mesh, made from animal tissues degrades as the patient’s new tissue grows which should then take over and provide strength. Non-absorbable mesh is made from synthetic materials and is designed to be a permanent implant.
Previous J&J and Ethicon Awards
A plaintiff from New Jersey was awarded $20 million in April 2017. The previous two trials against J&J and Ethicon combined for awards totaling $26 million. The most recent award is the lowest thus far, but legal representatives for the plaintiff suggest such a low award is a bit of a deviation.
There were no punitive damages awarded in the recent trial. Also, the 12-member jury did not find the Prolift mesh to be defective and did not conclude that Ethicon neglected to warn both the plaintiff and her physician about the risks linked to the Prolift product, or the possibility of surgical mesh adverse side effects.
However, the jury found that concerning the Ethicon Prolift product, the risks outweighed the benefits. The FDA approves medical devices based on the idea that while there are always risks present, the benefits must outweigh the risks for the intended indication, and for the patients receiving the product.
Risks vs. Benefits
In this particular case, the jury decided that the risks were higher, while at the same time remarking the pelvic mesh, in the jury’s opinion, did not fail to perform as safely as a typical consumer might anticipate. This appearance of inconsistency originates from a case tried by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Jurisprudence (the science or philosophy of law) stemming from that case establishes two ways to reassure product liability according to the laws of Pennsylvania.
It was not established if the plaintiff would appeal, after the verdict was delivered May 26, 2017. The surgical mesh complications lawsuit took place in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.
Have You Been Injured by a Surgical Mesh Product?
If you or someone you know has sustained injury involving a surgical mesh product, you may be eligible for valuable compensation. Parker Waichman personal injury law firm offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).