March 20, 2013 — Bloomberg reports that Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay Linda Gross, a nurse from South Dakota, $7.76 million for her vaginal mesh lawsuit. A jury found that the company failed to warn her doctor about the potential dangers of vaginal mesh and misrepresented its safety in brochures. The verdict includes $3.35 million in damages for her pain and suffering, lost wages, medical treatment, and her husband’s loss of consortium. After pushing for punitive damages, the jury awarded $7.76 million.
Mrs. Gross was implanted with the Gynecare Prolift vaginal mesh in 2006 to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP), a condition in which weakened pelvic muscles allow abdominal organs to protrude into the vagina. In her lawsuit, Mrs. Gross stated that her vaginal mesh caused complications, including erosion, scar tissue, inflammation, and tissue damage. After she required 18 corrective surgeries to repair the damage, she contacted a lawyer and filed a lawsuit in November 2008.
Mrs. Gross’s lawsuit is the first of approximately 1,800 lawsuits filed against Ethicon involving the Gynecare Prolift. However, more than 8,000 lawsuits have been filed against other manufacturers of vaginal mesh — including C.R. Bard, American Medical Systems, Coloplast, and Boston Scientific. Most of these lawsuits are centralized in federal Multi-District Litigation (MDLs) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, before Judge Joseph R. Goodwin.
All of the lawsuits allege that the companies did not adequately warn about the risks of vaginal mesh. Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit marketed the Gynecare Prolift as an ideal treatment for POP and incontinence, in 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a Safety Communication to warn that “serious complications associated with surgical mesh for transvaginal repair of POP are not rare.” The FDA added that there was no evidence that vaginal mesh provided any benefits over traditional non-mesh POP surgery.
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