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The first Ethicon Gynecare pelvic mesh lawsuits are scheduled to go before a jury near the end of next year in New Jersey state court.
Judge Carol E. Higbee, who is overseeing the consolidated Ethicon vaginal mesh lawsuits in New Jersey Superior Court, has scheduled the first of a number of Ethicon Gynecare test cases, known as bellwether trials, to begin in November 2012.
Preliminary discovery for cases being prepared for early trial dates is to be completed by March 30, and expert witnesses are to be deposed by October 5, according to a scheduling order Judge Higbee issued on October 28.
More than 350 lawsuits over Ethicon Gynecare transvaginal mesh have been centralized under Higbee for pretrial proceedings.
The cases involves women who received Gynecare Prolift mesh, Gynecare Gynemesh, Gynecare Prolene mesh, Gynecare TVT sling or another pelvic mesh product manufactured by Ethicon.
The vaginal mesh products, which may also be referred to as a bladder sling, are designed reinforce weakened or damaged tissue on the pelvic floor that hold organs in place, such as the bladder, the uterus, the rectum the top of the vagina or the bowel.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that Johnson & Johnson and their Ethicon subsidiary knew the vaginal mesh products were unreasonably dangerous when used to repair pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or female stress urinary incontinence (SUI), but continued to manufacture and sell them.
Plaintiffs allege that the companies manufactured a defective product and failed to adequately warn about the risk of serious and debilitating vaginal mesh problems, which can result in pelvic pain, infections, urinary problems, erosion of the mesh and other complications.
The bellwether lawsuits in the New Jersey Ethicon Gynecare litgation were selected for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence that is likely to be presented in other cases. While the outcomes of these early trials are not binding in other lawsuits that have been filed, they are often closely watched by lawyers involved in the litigation, and could impact the potential value of any Ethicon Gynecare settlement discussions.
This summer the FDA issued a warning about the risk of problems with Ethicon Gynecare vaginal mesh and other similar products used for pelvic organ prolapse. The agency indicated that transvaginal placement of the surgical mesh for pelvic organ prolapse does not appear to provide any significant benefit over other available means of treatment, yet has been associated with hundreds of reports of serious problems.
Between 2008 and 2010, the FDA received more than 1,500 reports of transvaginal mesh problems after pelvic organ prolapse repair surgery, including erosion of the mesh into the vagina, contraction or shrinkage of the mesh, infection, pelvic pain, urinary problems, vaginal scarring and other complications.
In addition to lawsuits over Johnson & Johnson’s transvaginal mesh products, product liability lawyers are also reviewing potential lawsuits for individuals throughout the United States who received other similar products manufactured by different companies, such as American Medical Systems (AMS), Boston Scientific, C.R. Bard and others.