In Bergen County, New Jersey, a jury handed down a $15 million verdict against Ethicon, a company owned by Johnson and Johnson, based on defective pelvic mesh implants that caused plaintiff Elizabeth Hrymoc chronic pain.
Pelvic mesh implants are used to treat women who have stress, incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse.
Hyrmoc claimed that Ethicon designed the pelvic mesh implants in a defective manner. She believed that the company knew it would cause problems but put it on the market anyway without adequately warning of the health risks.
Hyrmoc, as well as other women who have filed similar lawsuits, argues that polypropylene–a substance used to make the pelvic mesh products–can cause human tissue to become stiff and rigid. Once implanted, the mesh can contract and erode the vaginal wall, causing chronic pain as well as a host of other, difficult to treat symptoms.
Ms. Hrymoc commented on her case by saying, “It scares me, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. [The mesh implants] can shrink. It can get hard. And it can hurt me more.”
The 71-year-old has had to undergo several surgeries to correct the problem and has not been able to have the mesh fully removed from her pelvis. She claims the mesh has caused her to be unable to have a normal sexual relationship with her husband. Many other patients who have received similar mesh implants may never be able to have the pelvic mesh removed and will suffer lifelong chronic pain as a result.
Hrymoc’s gynecologist testified that if he knew of the risks involved with the pelvic mesh then he would have never recommended use of the product.
“I’m very pleased that justice was done, not just for me, but for all other women who were hurt,” Hrymoc commented.
The verdict consisted of $4 million for pain and suffering, $1 million for loss of consortium, and $10 million in punitive damages.
In its defense, the company argued that the mesh helped patients avoid pelvic floor reconstruction surgery and that they gave detailed explanations of the risks involved to surgeons and patients alike.
The FDA approved the mesh product in 2002. However, after many women came forward with complaints of pain, the FDA categorized the pelvic mesh surgery as a high-risk procedure in 2016. However, the company had already stopped selling the product in 2012.
In fact, Australia and New Zealand have banned the use of pelvic mesh implants due to their high risks.
The fact that this case went to trial and received such a large verdict will inform whether the company continues to go to trial or decides to settle the cases to avoid a jury trial.
The attorney who represents Hrymoc has 240 clients who have similar claims against Johnson & Johnson.
In 2013, an Atlantic County jury handed down a $11.1 million verdict to a woman with similar problems caused by the pelvic mesh.
In Philadelphia, a Court of Common Pleas Judge has ruled on Johnson and Johnson’s attempt to have over 100 cases dismissed. The judge only stated that 1 out of an excess of 100 cases needed to be dismissed based on improper venue and the others can stay.
In coming to the ruling, the court looked at a Bucks county company called Secant, which manufactured the pelvic mesh products for Ethicon in the state. Boston Scientific has recently settled 350 cases of pelvic mesh lawsuits that have been on a multijurisdictional docket.
The company has stated they intend to appeal the $15 million verdict, but there do not seem to be any substantive problems with how the trial was conducted or how the jury was picked.