Last week, a South Dakota jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a woman $3.35 million for failing to adequately warn her doctor of the potential dangers of a vaginal mesh implant and for misrepresenting the product in brochures. The verdict marks the first among 1,800 vaginal mesh cases currently pending in New Jersey against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Ethicon.
Before being taken off the United States market last year, the Ethicon product, Gynecare Prolift, was used to treat pelvis organ collapse, which occurs when tissue that holds the pelvic organs in place is weak or stretched and bulges into the vagina. The lawsuit was brought by Linda Gross in November 2008 in state Superior Court in Atlantic City. Ms. Gross filed her lawsuit after she developed numerous complications from a 2006 operation in which she had Gynecare Prolift implanted. According to court documents, Ms. Gross’s complications included mesh erosion, scar tissue, inflammation, and “neurologic compromise” which necessitated medical treatment and 18 operations to repair the damage caused by the mesh.
The lawsuit alleged that the Gynecare Prolift vaginal mesh was not safe and that Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon were liable, among other things, for “their defective design, manufacture, warnings and instructions.” The verdict was delivered by a jury panel composed of six women and three men following a six-week trial before Judge Carol Higbee. After the verdict was delivered, the judge ruled that she would allow arguments on punitive damages. According to Ben Anderson, a member of the plaintiff’s trial team, the jury verdict is “a strong statement to Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon that they cannot put profits before women’s safety.”