On September 7th, a Philadelphia jury awarded plaintiff Elle Ebaugh a $57 million award in her case against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon Inc., manufacturers of a of an allegedly defective pelvic mesh product that left Ebaugh with permanent damage to her urinary tract.
The landmark verdict is the largest plaintiff award so far handed down by the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, which currently has more than 130 similar cases involving transvaginal mesh products waiting to move forward.
The medical device manufacturer was ordered to pay Ebaugh $7.1 million in compensatory damages for her injuries, while the remaining $50 million of the total award represented putative damages.
During the trial, lawyers for the plaintiff introduced evidence that suggested Johnson & Johnson manipulated medical literature to minimize the occurrence of negative complications from mesh implants, and that the company failed to adequately warn doctors of the potential for injury posed by TVM.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff had received two implants of transvaginal mesh products designed and manufactured by Ethicon. Over time, the implants eroded into the plaintiff’s urethra, forcing her to undergo a number of corrective surgeries, in spite of which she continues to suffer from ongoing urinary incontinence.
These injuries are consistent with those suffered by other plaintiffs in transvaginal mesh products liability litigation. Other injuries allegedly caused by artificial mesh products include infections, chronic pain, erosion of the implant through the vaginal wall, as well as a recurrence of pelvic organ prolapse.
Johnson & Johnson has not fared well during the first 6 TVM trials held in Philadelphia – so far, courts have found for the defense on only one occasion. The remaining plaintiff verdicts of $20 million, $17.5 million, $13.6 million, and $12.5 million may indicate that the company may be facing an uphill battle in the city of brotherly love.
Beyond Philadelphia courts, the national landscape of TVM litigation against the world’s largest pharmaceutical company consists of more than 55,000 cases.
In 2016, the FDA issued two orders that reclassified transvaginal mesh devices from class II, or devices that pose a moderate risk of injury to patients, to class III devices, which pose a risk of more serious injury. The FDA cited a “a significant increase in the number of reported adverse events associated with the use of surgical mesh for transvaginal POP repair” as a major reason for the shift in their regulatory stance.