A jury in Atlantic County, New Jersey, awarded $3.35 million to 47-year-old Linda Gross for damages stemming from a Gynecare Prolift mesh device made by Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
According to a Reuters news report, the nine-member jury heard the case for six weeks before delivering the verdict on February 25, 2013.
The jury, comprised of six women and three men, determined that Ethicon had failed to adequately warn Gross and her doctor about the potential complications and injuries related to the vaginal mesh implant.
Gross ended up undergoing 18 surgeries in an attempt to correct the problem. In fact, news outlets that covered the trial reported that Gross remained standing throughout the proceedings because it was too painful for her to even sit down. She alleged in the lawsuit that she suffered from severe complications including mesh erosion, infections and nerve damage. The jury found in this case that the product was not defectively designed, but that Ethicon had made fraudulent misrepresentations about the product.
The court is now hearing arguments with regard to punitive damages. If punitive damages are awarded in this case, they could amount to as much as $16.75 million.
Hope for Other Mesh Lawsuit Plaintiffs
This is a significant victory for the plaintiff and one that offers a ray of hope for thousands of women who are waiting for their day in court. The jury in this case made a strong statement not only acknowledging and giving credibility to the plaintiff’s suffering and damages, but also asserting that Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon misrepresented their product and what it can do.
All women who underwent these mesh implant surgeries probably looked at the brochure and heeded the advice of their doctors, believing that there was minimal risk involved. Little they did realize at that point that their lives would be transformed forever, and not for the better. Implanting surgeons and patients alike based their decisions on the information they had at the time. And as the jury determined in this case, there were several inaccuracies and misrepresentations, to say the least, in the information provided by Ethicon and J & J.
Long-Term Suffering for Victims
We heard from an expert during this trial that there was internal disagreement at Ethicon regarding the choice of mesh used in the Prolift device and that it was likely to fail. Most of the vaginal mesh lawsuits allege that the mesh devices disintegrated in their bodies proving totally ineffective. Even surgeries to remove pieces of mesh failed in many women who continue to live in pain, unable to work, provide for their families or even have intimacy with their partners without suffering pain and discomfort.
Big Profits for Company, Still
According to Reuters, the verdicts may not even make a dent in Johnson & Johnson’s bottom line. Experts say that with an annual revenue of $70 billion, the company can absorb the seemingly big hits from this litigation.
What this also tells us is that Johnson & Johnson and other companies have what it takes to get the best legal defense money can buy.
According to the report, J & J has taken recent charges of more than $4 billion for recalls of defective artificial hips without badly affecting the company’s share price.
More Transparency is Needed in Clinical Trials
Obviously, the stakes are much higher for plaintiffs in these cases who have suffered significant personal losses, the affects of which they may have to endure for the rest of their lives. Many of these losses could have been avoided had their been more truth disclosed behind the clinical trials of medications and medical devices.
According to AllTrials, the FDA began requiring results of clinical trials in 2008 but best evidence shows that many have not been submitted and so far there appears to be no clear punishment for this. What’s worse is that the requirements of 2008 do not include drugs and devices created before that time. Those drugs and devices continue to be available to the public with no real knowledge of how or what was tested and at what success/failure rate.
AllTrials.com has recently been launched and is an initiative to bring transparency to clinical trials through signatures from all over the world. All trials — not just those that showed good results and are good for the industry’s bank accounts.
According to research done by the Alltrials Initiative thousands of clinical trials have not been reported.
“Thousands of clinical trials have not reported their results; some have not even been registered. Information on what was done and what was found in these trials could be lost forever to doctors and researchers, leading to bad treatment decisions, missed opportunities for good medicine, and trials being repeated. All trials past and present should be registered, and the full methods and the results reported. We call on governments, regulators and research bodies to implement measures to achieve this.
Patients and doctors cannot make informed decisions about healthcare options if only half of the cards are on the table. Doctors rely on information released from these drug and medical device manufactures to make decisions with their patients that make sense. When you hide (for lack of a better way of putting it) results of clinical trials, there can be no informed decisions. It’s impossible.
Ethicon (a Johnson & Johnson company) boasts of trust on their website and doing “what’s right for the patients” but Johnson & Johnson has seen billions in lawsuits. According to the NYTimes, February saw over 10,000 lawsuits filed against J&J for their artificial hip device which has been recalled because of a 40% failure rate.
Clearly, patients who have suffered from severe and permanent side effects from some of these medical devices would not agree with Ethicon’s motto. The verdict of yesterday for Ms. Gross may be one of many many more to come. Women all over the country may continue to see serious or permanent side effects after a vaginal mesh implant. What will another ten or twenty years bring to the quality of life for some patients?
Further scrutiny by the FDA is needed before products and devices make it to market. The upswing in medical device recalls seems to be on the rise and that makes one wonder about the all mighty profit margin versus people’s safety.
At least for now and in some small way, the Victor was the patient. While she may continue to suffer side effects throughout her life that could have been avoided, we can only hope they lessen with time — and that she finds some peace in knowing she can pay the medical bills that perhaps, a greedy industry created.
Here, our video explains some of the complications and side effects to having a vaginal mesh implant or bladder sling. Please call 1-800-561-4887 if you have any questions or need to speak to an injury attorney.