Five manufacturers of transvaginal mesh, including C.R. Bard and Boston Scientific Corp., have entered settlement talks with lawyers for plaintiffs who say the polypropylene mesh products have caused serious, often debilitating injuries, Bloomberg news reported. Together the companies face tens of thousands of personal-injury lawsuits in state and federal courts. About 30,000 complaints filed in U.S District Courts throughout the country have been consolidated for multidistrict litigation (MDL) in a Charleston, W.Va., federal court, where Judge Joseph Goodwin is overseeing the proceedings.
The total number of lawsuits could swell to 50,000 as more and more women experiencing transvaginal mesh complications or those at risk of suffering future complications join the litigation.
C.R. Bard settled the second bellwether case in August, just before trial was set to begin and one week after it was ordered to pay $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Georgia nurse Donna Cisson in the first bellwether case. Ms. Cisson, 55, alleged the Bard mesh device she had implanted in 2009 to correct a form of pelvic organ prolapse caused crippling injuries and forced her to undergo multiple other surgeries to remove pieces of the device that had become painfully embedded in her tissue.
Judge Goodwin scheduled the third bellwether trial to start in October and a fourth in November.
Vaginal mesh litigation wasn’t going in Bard’s favor even before the first federal bellwether case was tried. Last year, in the first transvaginal mesh case to go to trial anywhere, a California state jury ordered Bard to pay $5.5 million to a plaintiff who alleged the company’s Avaulta mesh device caused multiple serious injuries and effectively destroyed her life.
Considering the number of women who received non-invasive mesh implants instead of traditional native-tissue surgeries to correct pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence, and given the severity of the injuries in women who experience complications, legal experts believe the federal cases could be headed for a multi-billion dollar settlement.
According to Bloomberg, Coloplast and Cook Medical Inc. are also participating in the settlement talks. Johnson & Johnson, whose Ethicon unit manufactured a line of transvaginal mesh products under the Gynecare brand, is not participating in the settlement talks.
Johnson & Johnson said in June 2012 that it would phase out sales of all its mesh products within the year. As of June 30, 2013, the company faced more than 12,250 lawsuits alleging transvaginal mesh injuries.