Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Ethicon mishandled documents related to its transvaginal mesh devices and should be barred from seeking to throw out lawsuits or using some defense tactics, say attorneys for women who filed lawsuits against the companies.
Johnson & Johnson’s unit Ethicon makes the Gynecare Prolift implant, a transvaginal mesh device used to treat pelvic floor disorders such as pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. The devices are inserted through the vagina to hold up organs that have dropped for various reasons, usually from childbirth, obesity or age.
The devices have been associated with serious complications including mesh erosion and organ perforation, which can cause serious pain, disability, bleeding and an increased risk of infections. In some cases, multiple hospitalizations and deaths have been reported. Thousands of women who say they have been injured by the devices filed lawsuits against the manufacturers, including Ethicon.
However, during the discovery phase of a transvaginal mesh lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, it was found that potentially hundreds of thousands of documents during the course of a decade were lost or disposed of even though executives with the company were ordered to preserve them.
“Ethicon’s document destruction has severely prejudiced the plaintiffs for the upcoming bellwether trials,” the filing reads. “Defendants should not benefit from the gaps in plaintiffs’ story that defendant created.”
The first federal trial over Ethicon’s line of vaginal mesh implants is planned for February 10 in federal court in Charleston, W.V. A state court jury in New Jersey earlier this year awarded more than $11 million in damages to a woman who claimed the Prolift vaginal mesh caused her chronic pain.
The filing went on to say, “the proverbial slap on the hand is not enough.”