Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon, Inc. have been ordered to pay a record $57.1 million to a Pennsylvania woman who was left incontinent after receiving the company’s TVT and TVT-Secure pelvic mesh implants.
The verdict marks the fifth time a jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has found for a plaintiff in an Ethicon transvaginal mesh lawsuit. The verdict is also the largest rendered so far in the consolidated pelvic mesh litigation underway Pennsylvania.
According to her complaint, Ella Ebaugh was implanted with Ethicon’s TVT-Secur sling in 2007, at the age of 39, to treat stress urinary incontinence. She later underwent corrective surgery due to mid-urethral erosion, at which time she was implanted with a different TVT product. (Case No. # 130700866)
Ebaugh was forced to undergo another corrective surgery due to complications in June 2011. Ebaugh says she continued to experience complications, forcing her to undergo a fifth surgery just last year.
Ebaugh claimed that Ethicon’s TVT devices were defective and accused the company of failing to properly disclose their risks to doctors and patients.
Yesterday’s verdict followed nearly a month of testimony and two days of deliberations. Ebaugh was awarded $7.1 million in compensatory and $50 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are assessed when juries believe defendants engaged in wrongful conduct.
Ebaugh’s transvaginal mesh lawyer told The Legal Intelligencer that Johnson & Johnson’s internal emails likely played a significant role in the jury’s decision.
“It showed there were many attempts to manipulate the literature … and they continued to sell them knowing this information,” she said. “They made the case almost indefensible.”
Transvaginal mesh is indicated to treat women who suffer from pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. However, reports linking the implants to thousands of serious injuries and complications have prompted the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to issue several warnings regarding their use. Last year, the agency reclassified transvaginal mesh intended for prolapse repair as a high-risk medical device.
Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson have been named defendants in more than 55,000 pelvic mesh lawsuits pending in state and federal courts throughout the nation. Trials have been convened in various states, with plaintiffs and the defendants winning at various times, while a small number of cases have settled outside of court.
A total of six Ethicon transvaginal mesh trials have concluded in the mass tort program currently underway in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Four other juries ordered Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson to pay plaintiffs’ damages ranging from $2.16 million to $20 million.
The companies’ only win in the Pennsylvania litigation came in June, when another TVT-Secur plaintiff was denied damages after the jury hearing the case determined that the transvaginal mesh implant did not cause her injuries. However, they did find that TVT-Secur mesh was defectively designed.
Last month, the court agreed to grant that plaintiff a new hearing on damages after she argued in a post-trial motion that the jury’s verdict was inconsistent with the evidence.