A Pennsylvania state court judge has denied Ethicon’s motion seeking to dismiss more than 100 transvaginal mesh lawsuits from a mass tort program currently underway in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
All of the cases in question were filed on behalf of out-of-state plaintiffs. In seeking to have the claims tossed, attorneys representing Johnson & Johnson and its Ethicon unit cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, which limited plaintiffs to filing suit in jurisdictions where defendants are headquartered or where a plaintiffs’ injuries are alleged to have occurred.
While the defendants are headquartered outside of the state, the Prolene filaments used in Ethicon’s transvaginal mesh implants were manufactured and supplied by a Pennsylvania company called Secant. In seeking to have the out-of-state claims dismissed, Ethicon asserted that its limited contractual relationship with the company was not enough to establish jurisdiction in accordance with the Bristol-Myers Squibb decision.
But in an Order dated December 5th, Judge Arnold New ruled that only cases involving out-of-state plaintiffs who had received a Prolift +M implant would be dismissed for jurisdictional issues. A single lawsuit – Moore vs Ethicon (130701485) – was tossed, while the remainder of Ethicon’s motion was denied.
Transvaginal mesh devices are implanted in women who suffer from pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. Since 2008, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued several warnings regarding the serious complications that may occur with these devices, including mesh erosion, scarring and adhesions, chronic pain, infections, and organ damage. In 2011, the agency retreated from its earlier position that complications associated with transvaginal mesh prolapse repair were a rare occurrence.
Just last year, the FDA reclassified transvaginal mesh implants indicated for use in pelvic organ prolapse surgery as high-risk medical devices. Among other things, the reclassification made those implants ineligible for the agency’s 510(k) clearance program, which does not require a device to undergo human clinical trials before coming to market.
The Philadelphia mass tort litigation has already concluded six trials involving Ethicon’s transvaginal mesh implants. Plaintiffs have prevailed in five of these cases, winning damages of $2.16 million, $12.5 million, $13.5 million, $20 million, and $57 million.
While one jury did rule in favor of Ethicon, the judge overseeing the case recently granted that plaintiff a new damages hearing after finding that the verdict was inconsistent with the evidence.