J&J hit with $20M verdict in Philadelphia vaginal mesh case

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The $20 million verdict is just the latest in J&J's pelvic mesh saga. In 2016, the company said it would fork over more than $120 million to settle thousands of pelvic mesh suits.

A jury in Philadelphia has awarded $20 million in damages to a plaintiff who claimed that her pelvic mesh implant, made by J&J’s Ethicon unit, failed and caused her injury.

On Friday, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury awarded the plaintiff, Peggy Engleman, $20 million in damages, including $17.5 million in punitive damages, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. It is the third eight-figure verdict for pelvic mesh cases in Philadelphia.

Engleman received a TVT-Secur device in 2007 to treat urinary incontinence, the Inquirer reported. But the mesh failed, eroded inside her body and caused pain and discomfort. Engleman has since undergone multiple surgeries to remove it, but her surgeons were unable to remove all of the mesh.

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Her lawyers argued that the device was defective and that J&J and Ethicon hid the risks of the product, the Inquirer said.

"We believe the evidence showed Ethicon’s TVT-Secur device was properly designed, Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the research, development and marketing of the product, and TVT-Secur was not the cause of the plaintiff’s continuing medical problems,” Ethicon said, as quoted by the Inquirer. The company believes it has “strong grounds” for appeal.

In 2012, as hundreds of lawsuits piled up, the company stopped marketing four of its vaginal mesh products, including the TVT-Secur. But this hasn’t stopped the flood of lawsuits from women claiming the devices caused them injury.

And early last year, J&J set aside more than $120 million to settle thousands of lawsuits from women alleging chronic pain and organ damage as a result of the company’s pelvic mesh devices. This will scarcely put a dent in the company’s pelvic mesh woes—the funds will resolve between 2,000 and 3,000 lawsuits out of more than 40,000 cases J&J is facing over the devices.

Pelvic mesh isn’t the only device that’s got J&J in hot water—the company is also facing lawsuits from plaintiffs claiming injury from its Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implants, which it stopped selling in 2013.

In December, a Dallas jury ordered J&J to fork over $1 billion to six plaintiffs who reported injuries such as tissue death and bone erosion as a result from the implant. The jury found that the devices were “defectively designed” and that the company and its DePuy subsidiary did not warn consumers of the risk. But a federal judge halved the penalty due to “constitutional considerations” that limit punitive damages.

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