Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary company Ethicon were hit with a $41 million vaginal mesh verdict last month. Of that amount, some $25 million was awarded in punitive damages against the company.
The plaintiff had undergone surgery to implant the device in 2007. Since implantation, she has suffered numerous debilitating side effects including pain and discomfort, bleeding, infections, and pain during sex. Having undergone several surgeries to try to relieve her symptoms to no avail, she would also later learn that nothing could be done to repair the internal damage caused by the device.
In her lawsuit, the plaintiff stated that Johnson & Johnson was aware of the damage that could be caused by their mesh devices, as well as their propensity for failure. The company, she says, was also aware that its “disclosures to the FDA were and are incomplete and misleading.”
She is far from the only person to feel this way. Tens of thousands of lawsuits have been filed against mesh manufacturers, and Johnson & Johnson is facing nearly 40,000 of them on its own. At issue is the overall design of the devices and their likelihood of breaking after implantation or causing other adverse side effects like embedding in tissues or perforating organs. Plaintiffs in these cases claim that the manufacturers; Johnson & Johnson among them, knew of these dangers and chose to release and market the products anyway, even if that meant keeping regulators and the medical community in the dark about their dangers.
Philadelphia juries have punished Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon in the past. Less than two years ago, a jury in a Philadelphia courtroom handed down a staggering $57 million verdict to a plaintiff that will suffer pain for the rest of her life from the damage caused by an Ethicon transvaginal mesh.
After a very rough 2018 that saw revelations of links to ovarian cancer from asbestos in their talc products as well as the risk of mesothelioma, combined with tens of thousands of lawsuits over other products in their catalog including their mesh devices, 2019 is off to a very rocky start for the world’s largest healthcare goods manufacturer.