The U.S. District Judge overseeing multidistrict litigation (MDL) against several manufacturers of transvaginal mesh said he will begin hearing the first of these personal injury lawsuits on December 3, 2013. The news comes as a welcome sign of progress for hundreds of women experiencing devastating complications from surgical mesh implantation to correct pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI).
Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, who was chosen to oversee five transvaginal mesh MDLs in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, will first try a lawsuit against American Medical Systems, Inc. brought by a plaintiff alleging injuries caused by the company’s female pelvic repair products. Judge Goodwin will then hear a case against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, whose Gynecare division manufactured a number of transvaginal mesh products, and Boston Scientific Corp.
A trial against C.R. Bard over transvaginal mesh injuries is expected to begin in February, followed by multidistrict litigation against Coloplast, which, according to its website, “develops products and services that make life easier for people with very personal and private medical conditions.”
Legal complaints against the makers of transvaginal mesh products have been climbing steadily, as have the number of adverse-event reports filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most injuries involving transvaginal mesh devices result when the polymer mesh erodes through the vaginal wall or abrades or punctures surrounding tissues and organs. These complications often lead to extreme pain, bleeding, infection, and pain during sexual intercourse. Women who experience transvaginal mesh complication sometimes complain of intense mental anguish to the point of having suicidal thoughts.
Unfortunately, as with many other forms of surgical mesh products, there is often no easy fix for transvaginal complications. The devices are designed to become quickly incorporated with surrounding tissue, making their removal extremely difficult, if not impossible. Successful removal of mesh products, even partially, often requires the patient to undergo multiple surgeries.
The first lawsuits to be tried in each of the transvaginal MDLs will serve as bellwether trials. This approach is taken in the U.S. when the number of plaintiffs proceeding on the same theory or claim is too enormous for each to be tried individually. Therefore, the cases are combined and one or more are chosen as bellwether cases to effectively represent the wider body of litigation.