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Plaintiff Wins $2 Million Vaginal Mesh Lawsuit Award

A jury in Charleston, West Virginia – site of the federal Pelvic Repair System Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2187 – ordered C.R. Bard to pay Donna Cisson $2 million in damages over injuries related to their Avaulta transvaginal mesh. The vaginal mesh lawsuit award includes $250,000 in compensatory damages for Cisson’s alleged injuries plus an additional $1.75 million in punitive damages, meant to deter the manufacturer from similar future conduct.

The sizeable verdict has set the tone for the consolidated litigation underway before U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, who is presiding over 3,407 Bard Avaulta mesh lawsuits in the district of West Virginia. Cisson’s case was the first bellwether trial in the federal multidistrict litigation, aimed to gauge how juries will react to evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated over and over again. New Jersey-based manufacturer, C.R. Bard, will defend its products in three more bellwether hearings over the coming weeks.

Bard plans to appeal $2 million vaginal mesh lawsuit award

Following the landmark verdict, which was handed down on August 15, legal counsel for the defendant stated “We disagree with the verdict reached by the jury and believe there are compelling grounds for reversal. We will appeal…Our Avaulta mesh products are safe and effective medical devices, cleared by the FDA.”

The Avaulta line of vaginal mesh products was pulled off the market last year, after the FDA asked all mesh manufacturers to conduct further testing on the safety and efficacy of its devices. This action was preceded by more than 25,000 vaginal mesh lawsuits filed against several manufacturers of surgical mesh, in which women alleged excruciating complications, mostly triggered by mesh erosion.

Donna Cisson, a nurse from Georgia, received her Avaulta Plus implant in 2009 to address signs of pelvic organ prolapse (POP), but soon began experiencing chronic pain, bleeding and bladder spasms forcing her to undergo multiple surgeries to remove the mesh from her body. Over the two-week bellwether trial, her attorneys argued that the defendant placed profits ahead of consumer safety by effectively ignoring potential defects in its Avaulta products.

Jury finds Bard liable for defective design, failure to warn

Bloomberg News reports that Bard executives knew the devices were made of an inert plastic that was incompatible with human tissue, and in fact carried a warning that the material should not be implanted in humans. After listening to expert testimony, the West Virginia jury decided that Bard was liable for defectively designing its Avaulta mesh products and for failing to adequately warn women and their physicians about the mesh’s defects. Jurors also found that company officials acted with “malice, fraud or wantonness” – behavior that merited punitive damages to the tune of $1.75 million.

“The economic cost of ignoring patient safety just got a little more expensive,” commented a West Virginia-based transvaginal mesh lawyer representing Cisson.

Transvaginal mesh litigation in West Virginia federal court

Cisson’s $2 million vaginal mesh lawsuit award may offer a glimmer of hope for the thousands of injured women with pending claims in the Charleston, WV court. In addition to the more than 3,000 Bard Avaulta lawsuits coordinated for pre-trial proceedings, six other transvaginal mesh MDLs involving products manufactured by Boston Scientific, AMS, Johnson & Johnson, Cook Medical, Coloplast and Mentor are also underway.

The Cisson case is the second Avaulta mesh lawsuit to reach trial, but the first in the consolidated federal proceedings. Last July, a California state jury awarded $5.5 million in damages to a woman who suffered permanent injuries from the Bard Avaulta mesh. Now, all eyes will be on Bard to see if the company decides to negotiate vaginal mesh settlements with the remainder of the plaintiffs in order to avoid further multi-million dollar jury awards.