It's bad news for Johnson and Johnson's ($JNJ) Ethicon division in its ongoing vaginal mesh saga: The company paid out $11.1 million to resolve one of the first of many cases to go to court over its transvaginal mesh products.
A New Jersey court found that Johnson & Johnson/Ethicon knew about complications related to its Gynecare Prolift transvaginal mesh (TVM) device, but did not adequately warn the plaintiff and continued to market the product. The jury originally awarded 47-year-old Linda Gross and her husband a $3.35 million settlement in February 2013, and then tacked on an additional $7.8 million in punitive damages later that month, Reuters reported. Johnson & Johnson/Ethicon still face thousands of cases over transvaginal mesh implants, which are used to treat bladder incontinence and pelvic prolapse. Plaintiffs claim the devices eroded and shrunk, causing debilitating side effects.
The lawsuit--described as a "bellwether case"--is only a small piece of the company's larger legal battle. In February, a U.S. district judge in Charleston, WV, ruled that J&J negligently eliminated key documents related to its vaginal mesh case, some of which dated back to 2007, Bloomberg reported. A consumer group, Corporate Action Network, recently filed a complaint with the Department of Justice requesting that the agency investigate whether or not the company intentionally destroyed evidence that would have harmed its defense.
But J&J has won a few small victories: In late February, the same judge ruled that the company's TVT Retropublic pelvic mesh product did not cause injury. U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin said the plaintiff did not provide sufficient evidence that injuries were caused by a product defect, and ended the ongoing jury trial.
Goodwin will continue to oversee a consolidated group of vaginal mesh cases. Meanwhile, other companies are also dealing with their own legal woes: Big names like Boston Scientific ($BSX), C.R. Bard ($BCR) and Endo Health Solutions ($ENDP) also face thousands of suits related to vaginal mesh products. It is rumored that Bard, Endo and other manufacturers--excluding J&J--may be seeking a settlement.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized the timeline of the legal proceedings. A New Jersey jury originally awarded Linda Gross and her husband $3.35 million in compensatory damages in February 2013, and added $7.8 million in punitive damages later that month.