Jury Receives Closing Arguments in Ethicon Vaginal Mesh Lawsuit

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By: Irvin Jackson | Published: February 18th, 2013

A New Jersey jury was told on Friday that a woman who underwent 18 surgeries due to complications with vaginal mesh could have avoided untold pain and suffering if the manufacturer had adequately warned her or her doctor about the potential risks associated with the use Ethicon’s Gynecare Prolift mesh. 

Closing arguments were made last week in the first trial over Ethicon Gynecare vaginal mesh to reach a jury in the United States, and product liability lawyers throughout the country are closely watching the outcome of the case, which could give some indication how juries are likely to respond to similar evidence and testimony that will be offered in other lawsuits filed by women throughout the country.

The trial involves a complaint filed by Linda Gross, who alleges that she suffered severe and debilitating injuries after she received Ethicon’s Gynecare Prolift mesh in July 2006.

Gynecare Prolift is one of several types of vaginal mesh manufactured by different companies, which have been increasingly used in recent years to treat women suffering from pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or female stress urinary incontinence. While the surgical mesh is designed to be implanted transvaginally to provide support for the bladder or other pelvic organs, women have reported suffering severe infections, erosion of the mesh through the vagina and other health problems following surgery.

During the month-long trial, which has been held before Judge Carol E. Higbee in the Superior Court of New Jersey for Atlantic County, Gross’s doctor testified that had he been properly informed of the risks associated with vaginal mesh, he would have never used the product.

Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit has been accused of introducing the Gynecare Prolift vaginal mesh without conducting adequate research and testing to establish that it was safe or effective, and for failing to provide proper warnings for women or the medical community about the risk of devastating vaginal mesh problems that may develop following surgery to repair pelvic organ prolapse or female stress urinary incontinence.

Outcome of Vaginal Mesh Trial Closely Watched

Gross’s lawsuit one of at least 1,800 similar Gynecare vaginal mesh lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson and their Ethicon subsidiary in New Jersey over transvaginal mesh products. In addition, the manufacturer faces about another 2,000 complaints that have been filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country, which have been consolidated in the federal court system as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

A number of other manufacturers face similar vaginal mesh lawsuits over similar products sold by C.R. Bard, American Medical Systems (AMS), Boston Scientific and Coloplast Corp.

According to allegations contained in the complaints, women allege use of vaginal mesh for treatment of pelvic organ prolapse or female stress urinary incontinence is dangerous and that the products are defectively designed and manufactured.

In the federal court system, there are a total of five different multidistrict litigations (MDLs) established for each of the different manufacturers, which are all centralized before Judge Joseph R. Goodwin in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

A series of “bellwether” trials are scheduled to begin the federal court system in the coming months, with the first vaginal mesh trial date in the federal court system expected to involve a complaint involvig the use of Bard Avaulta mesh. This will be followed by at least three additional trials expected to begin in December 2013, involving lawsuits over products manufactured by Ethicon, AMS and Boston Scientific.

In July 2012, a California state court jury awarded $5.5 million in the first vaginal mesh lawsuit to go to trial, involving problems with a Bard Avaulta Pelvic Mesh product.

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