Johnson & Johnson and their Ethicon unit face another defective medical device lawsuit in Philadelphia over their transvaginal mesh products. Sharon Beltz claims that she was injured by a pelvic mesh device because of alleged oversights in the manufacturing process. Opening statements have taken place in the city’s Court of Common Pleas.
Nearly five years ago, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily pulled four lines of mesh products from shelves after facing waves of litigation over them. Since then, the company has sought settlement in some of the roughly 54,000 lawsuits filed over damages and injuries caused by the products. In some cases, they have settled for as much as $5 million.
Ethicon’s TVT-Secur transvaginal mesh line has proven to be particularly dangerous. A separate Philadelphia jury awarded $2.5 million to Margaret Engleman for injuries sustained as a result of the product’s defective design. The jury also awarded Engleman an additional $17.5 million in punitive damages after finding Johnson & Johnson failed to provide proper warnings about the risks of their mesh products.
A transvaginal mesh is intended to prevent urinary incontinence and organ prolapse in women, but the side effects can severely impact one’s quality of life. Bleeding, infection, nerve damage, pain, urinary problems, sexual difficulty, and organ perforation may occur. In addition, some studies have shown that the devices can erode in a patient within twelve months of implantation. Damage created by mesh and the subsequent pain endured by patients may not be reversible.
Scott Ciarrocca, a product engineer from Ethicon, has said in court that the development of the company’s product included no alternative plans for the possibility of a mesh failure. This is a reprehensible oversight for a device that has an incredibly complicated removal procedure. One expert’s testimony would go on to state that mesh removal procedures generally amounted to surgical “train wrecks.”
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been awarded to plaintiffs in transvaginal mesh lawsuits. States across the country have also brought suit against Johnson & Johnson for their mesh products over what have been called “deceitful” practices. Andy Beshear, the Attorney General for Kentucky, has said that “this company clearly chose profits over people.”
It is obvious at this point that these lawsuits will not stop until Johnson & Johnson has been forced to right every wrong committed against these women in the name of the almighty dollar. The question that remains unanswered is whether company executives have learned anything from the experience or if the bottom line will continue to take priority over the safety of the general public.