December 15, 2013 — Bloomberg reports that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has lost or destroyed hundreds of thousands of documents related to vaginal mesh over the last decade, even though executives at the company were instructed to retain documents.
The destroyed documents include hard drives of computers used by Renee Selman, former president of Ethicon, a subsidiary of J&J that manufactured the Gynecare Prolift and other vaginal mesh implants. Attorneys for J&J claim:
“Many employees did not understand that they were supposed to preserve documents … We have never intentionally destroyed, withheld or failed to produce relevant documents.”
J&J has admitted to losing or destroying documents related to the TVT and TVT-O transvaginal mesh. Documents were also lost from the company that developed the Gynecare Prolift, including regulatory experts who reviewed complaints and had regular contact with the FDA. Several videos were also lost or destroyed, including one produced by an expert witness and the original manufacturer of the TVT.
Lawyers for women who were injured by defective vaginal mesh are seeking penalties against J&J. They have asserted that J&J should not be allowed to rely on certain defenses or avoid lawsuits that were filed beyond legal deadlines. However, even if penalties are enforced, plaintiffs’ attorneys may have a difficult time proving negligence, defective design, failure to warn, and other claims without critical evidence against J&J.
Thousands of women have filed lawsuits against Ethicon and J&J after their vaginal mesh implant shrank, eroded, caused pain, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, or other debilitating complications. In 2012, J&J decided to stop selling the Gynecare Prolift and other mesh implants.
There are approximately 12,600 lawsuits pending against Ethicon in federal Multi-District Litigation (MDL) in Charleston, West Virginia, before Judge Joseph R. Goodwin. Nearly 40,000 vaginal mesh lawsuits have been filed against J&J and other manufacturers.
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