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As more than 70,000 transvaginal mesh lawsuits continue to move forward throughout the U.S. court system, the first settlements were reported this week in Canada.
Complaints filed throughout the U.S. and Canada raise similar claims, indicating that women suffered severe and debilitating complications from transvaginal mesh used to repair pelvic organ prolapse or female stress urinary incontinence.
Women have reported pain and other injuries caused by the mesh eroding through the vagina, infections or other problems, which often result in the need for additional surgery to remove the mesh.
According to a recent report by CTV News, about 35 women pursuing claims in Canada have reached settlements for their transvaginal mesh claims, although details of the agreements or the specific manufacturers involved were not disclosed. However, even after the settlements, there are still about 3,000 women pursuing claims over the transvaginal mesh products.
In the United States, more than 70,000 lawsuits are being pursued against various different manufacturers of transvaginal mesh and bladder sling products, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary, American Medical Systems (AMS), Boston Scientific, C.R. Bard, Coloplast Corp, Cook Medical, Neomedic and other companies.
Seven different federal multidistrict litigations (MDLs) have been established for cases filed against different manufacturers in the U.S., which are all centralized before U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin in the Southern District of West Virginia for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
According to the latest update (PDF) from the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, Judge Goodwin is presiding over 22,721 Ethicon vaginal mesh lawsuits, 19,081 American Medical Systems (AMS) mesh lawsuits, 14,674 Boston Scientific mesh lawsuits, 10,080 Bard Avaulta mesh lawsuits, 1,795 Coloplast vaginal mesh lawsuits, 258 Cook Medical vaginal mesh lawsuits and 71 Neomedic vaginal mesh lawsuits.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, small groups of cases involving several of the different manufacturers have been scheduled for early trial dates, which are known as “bellwether” claims. While manufacturers have had some success defending a few individual cases at trial, most of the lawsuits that have gone before juries have resulted in plaintiffs’ verdicts, with women being awarded several million in damages in many of the cases.
Last year, Endo International announced that AMS mesh settlements have been reached to resolve “substantially all” of the claims filed against their subsidiary. However, while there have been a handful of individual settlements reportedly reached by Bard and other manufacturers, there has been little progress towards reaching global settlements that would resolve large numbers of cases. As a result, Judge Goodwin has indicated that he intends to speed up the transvaginal mesh trial schedule, ordering several waves of cases involving certain manufacturers to be “trial ready” this year and next.
While the outcomes of these early bellwether trials are not binding in the thousands of other cases that are pending, they are designed to help the parties reach transvaginal mesh settlements and avoid the need for each case to be scheduled for trial, which would take decades given the total number of civil jury trials held each year throughout the entire federal court system.
Claims of Illegal Solicitation
This week, Johnson & Johnson filed a motion (PDF) with Judge Goodwin, calling for the court to investigate claims that some women are being illegally solicited to file transvaginal mesh lawsuits, even if they have not suffered an injury.
In the filing, lawyers for Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary indicate that about a half-dozen women have indicated they were called unsolicited to file a complaint, including the wife of one of the company’s attorneys, suggesting that some women’s medical records were illegally accessed. The motion calls for an investigation into the solicitation and for the Court to require plaintiffs and attorneys who have filed the more than 23,000 lawsuits against the company to prove there were no solicitations involved.
“The judicial process becomes a mockery if plaintiffs without valid claims are harassed into filing baseless suits and allowed to flood the system, with the weight of their numbers then used as a hammer to force settlement without ever having to demonstrate the merit of their claims,” wrote attorneys for Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon.
The motion comes shortly after Judge Goodwin denied a request to postpone scheduled trials involving transvaginal mesh manufactured by C.R. Bard. That manufacturer sought the delay following media coverage of recent comments made by Judge Goodwin last month at a hearing, where he indicated that the company may face “billions” in liability if settlements are not reached. Judge Goodwin also indicated that if he were a stockholder of Bard, he would be materially interested in the fact that there have been multiple million dollar verdicts for individual plaintiffs in the litigation.