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Jury Awards Millions in First Ethicon Transvaginal Mesh Lawsuit

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In January of this year, the first Ethicon transvaginal mesh lawsuit went to trial in the Superior Court of Atlantic County, New Jersey. Plaintiff Linda Gross brought claims against Ethicon and parent company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) concerning their product, the Gynecare Prolift vaginal mesh. Gross was implanted with the mesh in 2006 to treat her pelvic organ prolapse, and later had to go through 18 corrective surgeries because of complications.

Now, the jury in the case has reached a decision. On February 25, 2013, they stated that J&J should pay Gross $3.35 million in damages for failing to adequately warn her doctor of the potential health risks of the vaginal mesh implant, and for misrepresenting the product in marketing materials.

Vaginal mesh lawyers have been watching this case with interest, since it is the first trial of thousands of similar cases pending in New Jersey and around the country.

Vaginal Mesh Used to Repair POP

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a condition that affects many women as they age. The muscles and tissues in the pelvis gradually become stretched and weakened due to multiple childbirths, surgeries, menopause, or aging. Over time, they may become unable to completely support pelvic organs like the bladder, bowel, and uterus, allowing one or more of these organs to "fall" or "drop" into the vaginal wall.

Women who agree to undergo surgery for the condition often have transvaginal mesh implanted to help shore up and support pelvic organs so they remain in their appropriate locations. In July 2011, however, the FDA warned that complications with this type of mesh were not rare, and that it was unclear whether surgery with mesh offered any more benefits than traditional surgery without it. Complications can include erosion, infections, bleeding, extreme pain, protrusion, urinary problems, and more.

Jury Awards Plaintiff Significant Compensatory Damages

Gross was implanted with Ethicon’s Gynecare Prolift in 2006, and later suffered complications like mesh erosion, scar tissue, inflammation, and neurologic compromise to structures and tissue. She went through the 18 corrective surgeries in an attempt to repair the damage allegedly caused by the mesh.

According to Bloomberg, after a six-week trial, the jury delivered the verdict, awarding Gross $1.1 million for her pain and suffering, $180,000 for lost wages, $500,000 for future lost wages, $385,000 for past medical treatment, $1 million for future medical treatment, and $180,000 for her husband’s loss of consortium claim.

Evidence released during the course of the trial suggested that J&J was aware of the problems with their Gynecare products even before they launched it on the market, and that they ignored early warnings from a hernia surgeon who worked as an Ethicon consultant that the mesh was improperly designed.

J&J Facing Thousands of Vaginal Mesh Lawsuits

J&J stopped selling four Gynecare mesh products in June 2012, stating the products lacked commercial viability. The Prolift is one of those products, and is no longer available on the market. The company maintains that the Prolift is a safe and effective product, and that Ethicon warned doctors of the risks. They face more than 3,000 claims in courts across the United States from women who have suffered similar injuries, however.

This vaginal mesh lawsuit is the second to reach a jury. In July 2012, plaintiff Christine Scott was awarded $5.5 million in damages for injuries she allegedly suffered from Bard Avaulta vaginal mesh. Her case was heard in the California Superior Court for Kern County.

Gross’ vaginal mesh lawyers may now push for punitive damages in the case, which could reach as high as $16.75 million.