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Settlements & Jury Awards in Pelvic Mesh Cases

     More than 100,000 transvaginal mesh lawsuits have been filed, making it one of the largest mass torts in history. Many of these cases remain unresolved, but the multimillion-dollar settlements and verdicts that have been reached to date bode well for mesh victims who await resolution of their cases.

      In August 2017, Endo agreed to pay $775 million to resolve the remaining 22,000 lawsuits filed over its vaginal mesh implants.

     In April of 2019 a Philadelphia jury hit Johnson & Johnson with $120 million in damages after finding in favor of the plaintiff, who claimed that a defect in J&J's pelvic mesh implant caused her to suffer a number of severe injuries, including incontinence and chronic pain.

      This is the largest verdict against J&J subsidiary Ethicon Inc, the company that manufacturers the TVT-O pelvic mesh implant. The previous five Ethicon pelvic mesh verdicts were all handed down by Philadelphia juries.

      Susan McFarland, of Altoona, Pennsylvania, claimed that, due to a design defect, the pelvic mesh implant she received in 2008 caused her to suffer from incontinence and chronic pain, including severe chronic pain during sexual intercourse which has prevented her from having sex with her husband for the last 10 years.

      McFarland argued that after being implanted, the device sawed through the soft tissue in her pelvic region and became exposed in her vagina. 

      This was the second time a jury was presented with McFarland’s case – in September of 2018, a deadlocked Jury was unable to determine liability, resulting in a mistrial.

       McFarland was awarded $100 million in punitive damages and $20 million in compensatory damages in the retrial, which began in Mid-March of 2019.

      During the past decade, juries have returned numerous verdicts against transvaginal mesh manufacturers. Plaintiffs have received millions of dollars in compensation for medical bills, injuries and emotional damage after fighting their cases in court. Transvaginal mesh makers have settled thousands of legal claims for roughly $8 billion.

     More than 100,000 lawsuits were consolidated in multidistrict litigation courts in West Virginia. Judge Joseph Goodwin presides over six MDLs involving separate manufacturers. Many of these claims have been dismissed, settled or received jury verdicts in courts.

     Five companies began settlement discussions in October 2013. Johnson & Johnson was the only company that did not participate. It remains the company with the most lawsuits pending against it.

     A group of companies, including Coloplast and Caldera Medical, agreed to an $11.75 million class-action settlement to resolve 2,000 mesh claims in California courts in 2016.

     By 2017, almost every company in the federal MDLs had agreed to settlements. Boston Scientific, Bard and AMS settled thousands of claims, and other companies settled hundreds. Cook Medical has not agreed to any settlements, and the company has not faced a trial. More than 100 lawsuits against the company have been dismissed for being meritless.

     Judge Goodwin is really pushing the litigation. That’s a good sign. He’s making everybody toe the line.”  Judge Goodwin has warned device makers to cut their losses, urging them to settle outstanding claims and avoid massive court costs and verdict losses.

      $80 million was awarded to Patricia Mesigian against Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson, related to a Prolift mesh device implanted in 2008 to treat organ prolapse. She said the product eroded, leaving her suffering from pelvic pain, infection, inflammation, scar tissue and the inability to have sexual relations without pain.

     The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania jury's $80 million award against Ethicon includes $50,000 in punitive damages. According to docket information for the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, Mesigian was awarded $50,000 in punitive damages and $30,000 in compensatory damages over injuries related to the Prolift mesh device. Prolift was removed from the market in 2012. This is the largest transvaginal compensatory jury verdict to date.

     Plaintiffs' attorneys may have mixed interests in aggregation and global resolution. Some attorneys believe that it is in their and their clients' interests to pursue individual cases to trial to demonstrate the value of their caseload, then negotiate settlements for their remaining cases.

     Aggregation will be more appealing to attorneys with larger numbers of less valuable cases, who can use aggregation to resolve claims cheaply without having their worth tested.

     Aggregation is also attractive to other plaintiffs' lawyers, who maximize settlements by greatly increasing defendants' stakes in large, aggregated trials.

      Global resolution requires courts and parties to estimate the value of claims that are pending but have not been tried or even completed discovery. However, there may be little agreement about what particular types of cases are "worth" or about the number and value of future claims.

     Johnson & Johnson faces more vaginal mesh lawsuits than any other manufacturer. Here are results from some of the lawsuits that have turned out in favor of mesh victims:

     In March 2018, a jury in Indiana awarded $35 million to Barbara and Anton Kaiser. They sued Ethicon (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) after Barbara Kaiser’s Prolift mesh allegedly caused her pelvic pain. The jury awarded her $10 million in damages and hit Ethicon with $25 million in punitive damages.

     In December 2017, a Bergen County, NJ jury awarded $15 million to Elizabeth Hrymoc. Ms. Hrymoc said she received a defective Prolift mesh implant in 2008, which left her in such pain that she had to have it removed and replaced. She cried as the jury announced their verdict.

     In September 2017, a Philadelphia jury awarded $57.1 million to Ella Ebaugh, who says she suffered chronic pain and incontinence because of two Ethicon pelvic mesh implants that eroded into her urethra. Ms. Ebaugh says she required three surgeries to remove the mesh. Ethicon vowed to appeal.

     In April 2017, a Philadelphia jury awarded $20 million to a woman who claimed she was in constant pain because of her TVT-Secur transvaginal mesh, a product of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon. A spokesperson for Ethicon said the company would appeal the decision, but it was the fifth major loss over the mesh products since 2014.

     $13.5 million verdict awarded to Sharon Carlino of New Jersey in February 2016. According to the lawsuit, Carlino received Ethicon’s transvaginal tape (TVT) for stress urinary incontinence and it left her with constant pain and discomfort. Two surgical attempts to fix the device did not rid her of pain. $10 million of the verdict came in the form of punitive damages. The jury said that Carlino’s doctor would not have used the Ethicon mesh had the device risks been known.

     $4.4 million jury award to Florida resident Tessa Taylor in February 2016. The jury found that ObTape sling (made by J&J subsidiary Mentor) caused Taylor’s back pain, bladder pain, and difficulty urinating over a 7 year period. Taylor received the mesh to treat urinary incontinence, but she was re-diagnosed with the condition in spite of the device. $4 million of the verdict was for punitive damages to “discourage others from behaving in a similar way.”

    J&J agreed to pay $120 million to settle 2,000-3,000 mesh lawsuits in January 2016. The settlement marked the first serious attempt by J&J to settle a significant number of mesh lawsuits. A regulatory filing at the time showed that J&J still faced more than 42,000 mesh cases.

     $12.5 million verdict awarded to Indiana resident Patricia Hammons, including $7 million in punitive damages. Hammons was implanted with Ethicon’s Prolift device, which she says caused severe pain, sexual difficulties, and incontinence–even after corrective surgery.

     $5 million settlement reached in September with plaintiff Pamela Wicker, implanted with Ethicon’s Prolift mesh device. Wicker claims that Prolift eroded inside of her and necessitated numerous surgeries to remove the device. A law professor said that the large settlement showed the costs of dealing with mesh litigation would be a lot higher than expected.

     $5.7 million verdict awarded to Coleen Perry in March 2015 by a California jury. Perry was implanted with the J&J/Ethicon TVT Abbrevo and says she expects to have pain the rest of her life. The jury found that the TVT Abbrevo has design problems and that Ethicon failed to warn about potential health risks. The verdict included $5 million in punitive damages for conduct that amounted to “malice.”

     Two confidential settlements involving 115 mesh victims were reached in January 2015. One of the settlements resolved 4 cases in Missouri over Ethicon’s Prolift mesh device and the other resolved 111 cases in Georgia over the ObTape Transobturator Sling (made by J&J subsidiary Mentor). The Missouri women claimed that the mesh in Ethicon’s Prolift insert shrinks and damages organs, causing constant pain and making sexual intercourse difficult, while the Georgia women alleged that ObTape causes permanent injuries.

     $3.25 million verdict awarded to plaintiff Jo Husky over the J&J/Ethicon Gynecare TVT-O mesh device. The verdict was reached by a West Virginia jury in September 2014 following a two-week trial. Jurors found that the TVT-O was faulty and that Ethicon failed to warn of side effects.

     $1.2 million verdict awarded to Linda Batiste, implanted with the Gynecare TVT Obturator (TVT-O) mesh sling (made by J&J unit Ethicon) in April 2013. The jury concluded that the device’s design was flawed.

     $11.1 million verdict (including $3.35 million in compensation and $7.76 million in punitive damages) awarded to Linda Gross of South Dakota, who was implanted with J&J’s Gynecare Prolift vaginal mesh device. A New Jersey jury reached the verdict in February 2013, saying that J&J fraudulently misled Gross about device risks. (for more verdicts against other mesh manufacturers.)

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