Nearly $100 Million in Damages in Six Trials
As six more transvaginal mesh trials are scheduled for the next year around the country, mesh makers can take little solace from the outcomes of six trials won by plaintiffs so far. Those six alone have rendered nearly $100 million in damage awards for women implanted with the plastic products the manufacturers claim represent some sort of “gold standard” of care for stress urinary incontinence. (Note: The plastic mesh is used in women for different applications, for both pelvic organ prolapse – POP – surgery as well as for stress urinary incontinence – SUI.
While some manufacturers have settled large numbers of injury cases, some – such as Johnson & Johnson – have vowed to fight on and continue to defend their mesh in courtroom battles.
Transvaginal Mesh Verdicts
1. July 2012: $5.5 Million in California
In the first transvaginal mesh case to go to trial in the country, jurors in Bakersfield, Calif., on July 20 concluded that C.R. Bard Inc. and an implanting doctor were jointly liable for $5.5 million in damages. Bard’s liability was set at $3.6 million. Christine Scott and her husband won the damage award because of injuries caused by Bard’s Avaulta Plus vaginal implant. The jury panel found Bard officials negligent in their handling of the device used to treat pelvic organs that bulge, or prolapse, or to deal with incontinence. The jury determined that Ms. Scott and her husband were entitled to a total of $5.5 million for her medical expenses, pain and suffering and other damages. The panel found Bard 60 percent at fault, and Dr. Tillakarasi Kannappan, who implanted the device in 2008, 40 percent at fault, according to the verdict sheet filed with the court. Ms. Scott suffered more than a dozen procedures in attempts to remove the mesh and repair scar tissue following her initial mesh surgery.
The doctor was not a defendant in the trial and therefore not responsible for paying the $1.9 million in damages that made up the remainder of the verdict, according to court filings. Scott’s claims against Kannappan were severed from the Bard case in 2012.
2. March 2013: $11.1 Million in New Jersey
In the first transvaginal mesh case in the country to go to trial against Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon, a New Jersey jury awarded South Dakotan Linda Gross $11.1 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The jury – six women and three men – found J&J guilty of fraudulently misrepresenting the dangers of the Gynecare Prolift mesh that was implanted in Ms. Gross for pelvic organ prolapse (POP). The jury also declared that J & J/Ethicon failed to adequately warn Ms. Gross’ surgeon of the product’s dangers. New Jersey attorney Adam Slater represented Ms. Gross.
3. August 2013: $2 Million in West Virginia
A jury in the multi-district litigation court (MDL) set up in West Va., awarded $250,000, along with $1.75 million in punitive damages, to a woman implanted with defective mesh. Transvaginal mesh device maker C.R. Bard was the defendant in this first mesh to come before the (MDL) court. The jury declared C.R. Bard’s Avaulta pelvic mesh device to be defective, and determined that Bard failed to warn about the mesh’s defects.
The jury deliberated for 12 hours over two days after a six-week trial. Judge Joseph Goodwin of the U.S. District Court for Western Virginia presided.
4. April 2014: $1.2 Million in Texas
On April 3, a 12-person jury in Dallas ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay Linda Batiste $1.2 million for a defective plastic sling – the TVT-O – which J & J’s Ethicon division makes and markets for stress urinary incontinence. Several law firms – including Freese & Goss and Matthews & Associates – represented the woman, Ms. Linda Batiste.
Ms. Batiste suffered through several surgeries which attempted to remove all the mesh, which turns out to be impossible to remove, in her case and many others.
5. Sept. 2014: $3.27 Million in West Virginia
In the West Va. MDL court on Sept. 8, a federal jury returned a verdict against another mesh maker after a two-week bellwether trial in Charleston. Jurors awarded plaintiffs Jo and Allen Huskey $3.27 million for damages caused by a Johnson & Johnson Ethicon Inc. sling, the TVT-O.
Attorney Jeffrey Kuntz, a partner at Wagstaff & Cartmell in Kansas City, represented the plaintiffs.
6. Sept. 2014: $73.4 Million in Texas
Late on Sept. 8, a 12-person jury awarded Martha Salazar and her husband a total of $73.4 million for injuries suffered from a plastic mesh sling for stress urinary incontinence.
Judge Ken Molberg presided over Salazar vs. Lopez (and Boston Scientific, Corp., etc.) in the two-week trial in Texas’ 95th Judicial District Court. Plaintiffs’ attorneys – David Matthews, Tim Goss, Richard Capshaw, Sheila Bossier, Kevin Edwards – showed evidence that 38-year-old Martha Salazar had been gainfully employed by a single company for 20 years, right up until the surgery which destroyed her health and quality of life. Boston Scientific’s Obtryx mesh left her with a pronounced limp, permanent pain, and it triggered 42 additional procedures to treat mesh injuries.
Over a seven-year period, Boston Scientific failed to warn doctors and women of the Obtryx sling’s serious complications, though Boston Scientific was well aware of them, according to David Matthews. Ms. Salazar’s attorneys also charged that Boston Scientific withheld from doctors – including Ms. Salazar’s implanting surgeon, Dr. Lopez – a clinical study that showed serious complications.
The Salazars were awarded a total of $23,465,000 in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages. The jury deliberated less than four hours.
70,000 Transvaginal Mesh Lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon leads all manufacturers in mesh litigation. Ethicon currently faces 33,000 more transvaginal mesh lawsuits. But according to court documents, the Ethicon litigation is just one of many established in the Southern District of West Virginia MDL to handle a huge number of mesh claims, more claims than have ever been handled in any MDL in litigation history. More than 70,000 transvaginal mesh lawsuits stand pending against seven pelvic mesh manufacturers in the Southern District of West Virginia.
In addition, several thousand other mesh cases are filed in state courts around the country, including Texas, New Jersey and California.