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Trial Consolidating 26 Ethicon Mesh Lawsuits Scheduled

vaginal meshA trial consolidating 26 separate Ethicon mesh lawsuits has been scheduled for later this year. The cases, all related to allegedly defective Gynecare TVT mesh products that caused injuries for the women filing the lawsuits, will be heard by the same federal jury on November 2, 2015.

The order to consolidate the cases is the latest measure followed by the judge presiding over tens of thousands of transvaginal mesh product lawsuits in an attempt to jumpstart a stalled litigation process. U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin issued Pretrial Order #182 on June 12 in connection to a multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving manufacturer Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson and the make of Gynecare products.

The women filing the cases all allege that they were injured by poorly designed and manufactured transvaginal mesh or “sling” products designed to treat such conditions as pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Instead, the women argue that they were left to suffer with such complications as erosion of the mesh products and organ perforation that left them with serious bleeding, scarring, and urinary incontinence problems and resulted in chronic abdominal or pelvic pain and/or pain during sexual intercourse.

Ethicon mesh lawsuits outnumber those against other defendants

The Ethicon MDL is the largest of six different litigation processes currently taking place in West Virginia. Other MDLs involve manufacturers Boston Scientific, Coloplast, Cook Medical, C.R. Bard, and Neomedic. With over 50,000 lawsuits filed over mesh products, the MDLs are designed to facilitate the speedy resolution of many court cases that would otherwise stymie the court system for years to come through the establishment of large scale settlements.

Typically, the court will establish a few representative lawsuits to serve as “bellwether” cases in order to test potential juries’ reactions to the evidence. Some such cases have already taken place, with plaintiffs winning multi-million dollar awards in some cases. However, most of the major manufacturers involved in the MDLs have not been amenable to reaching settlements involving all of their complaints. The one exception is American Medical Systems (AMS), a manufacturer named in a seventh MDL, whose cases were largely resolved through a $54.5 million settlement reached in July of 2013.

Consolidation of 16 transvaginal mesh lawsuits resisted by Ethicon

Although plaintiffs have won notable jury awards against Ethicon, the manufacturer has so far resisted any agreement for a large-scale settlement to resolve all pending complaints, which currently number over 25,000. Judge Goodwin has tried on numerous occasions to encourage parties to settle with each other.

The latest of Judge Goodwin’s measures was opposed by Ethicon, which argued that each case should be heard by a separate jury as it involved different doctors and different circumstances. However, Judge Goodwin ruled that the cases were similar enough and that “the common issues of law and fact outweigh the incidental differences” that might otherwise separate the cases.

So far, Ethicon has lost or had to settle individual cases against some plaintiffs, including a lawsuit submitted by Linda Gross, a plaintiff who endured 18 different revision surgeries to correct mesh complications associated with her Gynecare Prolift implant. The New Jersey Superior Court jury awarded her $11.1 million in February of 2013, including $7.76 million in punitive damages. The defendant was recently denied an appeal.

  1. WVSD. US Courts, Pretrial Order #182

  2. NY Times, Women Sue Over Device to Stop Urine Leaks

  3. Reuters, Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $5.7 million in California mesh trial

  4. Reuters, J&J's Ethicon settles bellwether mesh case mid-trial in West Virginia