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J&J Mesh Bellwether Case Settled Following Earlier $5.7 Million Verdict

Ethicon Vaginal MeshA transvaginal mesh settlement has been reached in a lawsuit that had been selected for a bellwether trial as part of a federal mass tort against medical device maker Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Details of the settlement were not disclosed. Only one day earlier, a jury in a different Ethicon mesh case had found in favor of the plaintiff, holding J&J liable for over $5 million in damages.

Currently, there are over 70,000 cases in the courts concerning transvaginal mesh devices, which doctors have implanted to help women overcome problems such as urinary incontinence. Plaintiffs have argued that the devices can cause a considerable amount of long-term damage for some women. To deal with the heavy volume of cases, the courts have ordered the construction of several multidistrict litigations (MDLs) to consolidate and streamline the processing of many of these lawsuits. MDLs were created to encompass cases brought against seven different mesh manufacturers, including Ethicon.

Bellwether cases are designed to set precedent for other lawsuits that are part of each MDL and to encourage parties to negotiate settlements.

$5.7 million verdict came a day earlier

The $5.7 million mesh verdict that preceded the settlement was handed down in the Superior Court of the State of California, Kern County. It is the fourth favorable jury verdict for a plaintiff challenging Ethicon and includes $700,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. The case concerns the Abbrevo, a newer model of mesh product approved to treat urinary incontinence in 2010.

The plaintiff testified that she experiences frequent pain that she expects to last for the rest of her life as a result of implantation with the mesh product. Jurors in the case found the defendant liable for the flawed design of their product and for failure to warn of possible injuries. The lawyers for the defendant believe, however, that they have good grounds for an appeal.

Ethicon mesh settlement reached

The Ethicon mesh settlement was reached only four days after the start of the bellwether trial. As with all other lawsuits involved in the vaginal mesh MDLs, the case was tried in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia under Judge Joseph Goodwin.

Details of the case have not been released, though common complaints concerning the mesh devices involve recurring pain and infection, in many cases resulting from the mesh eroding through the vaginal wall and causing damage. Patients often must have follow-up surgery to remove the mesh and in some cases multiple surgeries are involved. In the worst cases, even surgery does not completely alleviate long-term damage, according to the complaints.

Thus far, the parties in the majority of the MDLs have not reached the large scale settlements that would resolve the thousands of cases now pending in the court system. The one exception is the American Medical Systems (AMS) MDL, which included approximately 20,000 transvaginal mesh lawsuits. The company has set $1.6 billion in settlement money to resolve these complaints.

  1. Reuters, Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $5.7 million in California mesh trial

  2. Reuters, J&J's Ethicon settles bellwether mesh case mid-trial in West Virginia