ATLANTIC CIY, NJ–The first transvaginal mesh lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and its Ethicon unit to go to trial ended Thursday with a jury award of $7.76 million in punitive damages to the plaintiff.
On Monday, the New Jersey Superior Court jury awarded plaintiff Linda Gross $3.35 million in compensatory damages for multiple serious injuries she alleged were caused by a Gynecare Prolift mesh device, which her surgeon implanted in 2006 to correct her case of pelvic organ prolapse.
Ms. Gross, 47, was employed as a nurse in South Dakota before the transvaginal mesh device eroded through her vaginal wall, causing multiple debilitating injuries that left her unable to work, her lawsuit claimed.
Chronic pain and swelling and an inability to sit still or remain active for more than 20 minutes at a time before her pain worsened were just the beginning of the agony Ms. Gross experienced after having Ethicon’s transvaginal device implanted. She no longer has intercourse with her husband due to the pain she experiences and the risk of injury to him, and she has undergone numerous procedures to reverse the damage caused by the mesh, but with little success.
Within months of her implant surgery, Ms. Gross had her first of 18 surgeries to remove pieces of the mesh that had eroded and melded with her tissue.
Her case was the first of more than 1,800 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson / Ethicon for injuries involving transvaginal mesh products pending in Atlantic County Superior Court in Atlantic City. Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest health care products conglomerate, is headquartered in New Jersey.
Thousands of other lawsuits filed in federal courts have been consolidated for multidistrcict litigation (MDL) in a West Virginia federal court. Those lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson/Ethicon and four other manufacturers of transvaginal mesh products. Thousands more still are pending in courts internationally, including Australia, where transvaginal mesh lawsuits are expected to form the largest class action in that country’s history.
Johnson & Johnson announced last June that it would stop making and selling transvaginal mesh products. Its decision to shut down those operations followed a June 2011 warning by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that transvaginal mesh injury reports had increased five times in recent years.