J&J settles the score with over 100 vaginal mesh plaintiffs

One week after Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) said that women were being illegally solicited by unknown callers to sue over the company's transvaginal mesh devices, J&J has agreed to settle more than 100 product liability lawsuits regarding pelvic mesh products sold by its Mentor subsidiary.

Plaintiffs in 108 cases asked Judge Clay Land in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia to establish a trust fund to dole out settlements, according to court documents seen by MassDevice. The plaintiffs' lawyers agreed to settle the cases last April, but J&J is staying mum on the amount of the settlement fund or the specific terms of each settlement.

This is not the first time J&J has agreed to settle the vaginal mesh score with plaintiffs. In 2010, Mentor settled another group of lawsuits over allegedly defective vaginal mesh devices for urinary incontinence that were consolidated before Land.

But the company faces a mixed bag of rulings on other fronts, as its Ethicon division continues to deal with a slew of liability suits over vaginal mesh products. In February 2014, the company won a battle in its ongoing suit as a federal district judge in Charleston, WV, ruled that the company's pelvic mesh device did not cause injury. But in September, a federal jury in West Virginia after a two-week trial ordered J&J to pay $3.27 million to a woman who claimed the device caused undue pain and serious side effects. The case was the second to go to trial among thousands that have been consolidated before U.S. Federal Judge Joseph Goodwin.

Meanwhile, J&J's Ethicon arm is pushing for an investigation of unsolicited phone calls urging women to sue over the company's vaginal mesh devices, offering them up to $40,000 if they filed suit. The company in a court filing asked Goodwin to look into the calls and require plaintiffs to provide evidence that they were injured by Ethicon's devices. Bryan Aylstock, a lead plaintiffs' lawyer in the litigation, called J&J's motion a "baseless attempt" to skirt responsibility for the devices.

J&J is not the only company sifting through mesh-related claims; Big names like C.R. Bard ($BCR), Boston Scientific ($BSX) and Endo International ($ENDP) are also contending with legal drama over vaginal mesh devices, battling it out in court or choosing to resolve cases instead. In November, Boston Scientific faced a stinging setback in its vaginal mesh proceedings as a federal jury ordered the company to pay $18.5 million in damages to four women who claimed the devices caused them constant pain and injury. Earlier this month, Bard lost a bid to delay its vaginal mesh trial proceedings after alleging that comments made by the federal district court judge overseeing the case may have unfairly swayed jurors.

Endo International has taken a different route, in September agreeing to settle its vaginal mesh suits. In November, the company said that it would add $400 million to its $1.2 billion liability reserve to settle "substantially all" of the remaining claims over its vaginal mesh implants. The Dublin-based company's American Medical Systems (AMS) subsidiary will fund the payments through 2017, resolving more than 10,000 suits for an average of approximately $48,000 apiece.

- read the MassDevice story

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