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Trial Date Set for Ethicon Prolift Mesh Lawsuits

A federal judge overseeing the multidistrict litigation against the Johnson & Johnson-owned subsidiary Ethicon over their vaginal mesh implants has ordered first trial to begin in August 2014. There are more than 10,000 Ethicon Prolift mesh lawsuits currently pending in the federal court system.

Vaginal mesh patches and implants were marketed to consumers as an effective and advanced treatment for common problems like stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP).  When women who received the implants began suffering serious side effects as a result, lawsuits involving product liability claims against the separate manufacturers began to mount.

U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin is presiding over the Ethicon federal transvaginal mesh multidistrict litigation (MDL).  Civil lawsuits against Ethicon from around the country were transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. They were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation with the goal of streamlining the pretrial process by conserving resources and judicial time.  The Ethicon MDL is one of just of six separate MDLs against different companies that manufactured the vaginal mesh implants.  All of the lawsuits involve allegations of similar injuries suffered by the women who received the implants. The other defendants include Boston Scientific, C.R. Bard, American Medical Systems, Coloplast Corp., Cook Medical, and Mentor Corp.

According to the pretrial order issued by Judge Goodwin in August 2013, the first bellwether trial in the Ethicon MDL is scheduled to begin on August 19, 2014.  The specific cases that will go to trial will be selected from a group of six lawsuits that the parties will select by January 6, 2014.  The plaintiffs will pick three cases, and the defendants will pick three cases.

Plaintiffs allege severe health problems from pelvic mesh complications

The women are suing to recover compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost income, pain, and emotional trauma, among other injuries.  Thousands of women who received the mesh implants began to experience severe health problems, including:

  • Mesh erosion
  • Organ perforation
  • Chronic pain in the pelvic region
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal scarring
  • Abdominal pain
  • Recurrence of pelvic organ prolapse
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Infections

Women who have experienced severe transvaginal mesh complications have been advised by their doctors to undergo surgery to remove the mesh device.  In some cases, women need multiple surgeries to remove the device.  Once the surgery is completed, some women continue to have health problems.

Complications from the surgery include nausea, scar tissue, nerve damage, infections, difficulty moving, permanent damage to the organs, and persistent pain during sexual intercourse.

Transvaginal mesh litigation centralized in WV district court

The MDL procedure allows the judge to oversee the discovery process, thereby reducing the chance of duplicative discovery and conflicting rulings.  Each transvaginal mesh lawsuit must contain common questions of fact, and the coordinated proceedings are presided over by one federal judge.  If the cases are not dismissed, or do not reach settlement agreements or verdicts during MDL, they are sent back to their original courts for trial.

In each of the federal MDLs, a small group of cases is being prepared for early trial dates.  These cases are known as “bellwethers,” because they are designed to help the parties in the lawsuit gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence that will likely be repeated throughout the claims.

The legal proceedings for five of the multidistrict litigations are being handled in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.  The multidistrict litigation for Mentor Corp. is located in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.  The legal proceedings for the various MDLs are ongoing.

In one recent trial in February 2013, the plaintiff Linda Gross was awarded $11.1 million in a transvaginal mesh lawsuit verdict . Gross underwent 18 surgeries after she suffered complications from a Prolift vaginal mesh implant. The jury found that Ethicon fraudulently misrepresented the safety of the device in its marketing materials and failed to warn doctors about the medical risks.  Ethicon announced that it will appeal the court’s decision.