Texas judge tosses out 76 suits in J&J's ongoing vaginal mesh litigation

Ethicon's Gynecare TVT Obturator device--Courtesy of Ethicon

Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Ethicon unit scored a victory in its ongoing vaginal mesh litigation as a federal judge in Texas tossed out 76 liability lawsuits related to the company's pelvic mesh devices.

Judge Kenneth Hoyt of the U.S. District Court for Southern Texas ruled that only one of the plaintiffs in the original group of lawsuits over Ethicon's Gynecare Prolift pelvic floor repair system has grounds for a case in Texas, and found that his court has no jurisdiction over out-of-state plaintiffs, MassDevice reports. Only one plaintiff originally filed suit in a Texas state court, Hoyt noted in his ruling, and J&J/Ethicon's main corporate offices are in New Jersey, making Texas an unsuitable state to oversee the cases.

"On the record before the court, Texas is simply not a forum in which it would be permissible to subject the defendants to general jurisdiction," Hoyt said in his ruling, as quoted by MassDevice. "The defendants' operations in Texas are not so substantial and of such nature as to render them at home in state. Because the out-of-state plaintiffs cannot meet their burden of establishing personal jurisdiction over these New Jersey defendants, dismissal of their claims is proper."

The news bodes well for J&J/Ethicon, as the company continues to ward off claims related to Gynecare TVT-O transvaginal mesh devices. In April, a Texas state court awarded a plaintiff $1.2 million after a jury found that the company's TVT-O product was defectively designed.

In September, Ethicon lost another courtroom battle when a federal jury in West Virginia ordered the company to fork over $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 in West Virginia before U.S. Federal Judge Joseph Goodwin. Ethicon spokesman Matthew Johnson said the company planned to appeal the jury's verdict and that it "acted appropriately and responsibly in the research, development and marketing of the product" (as quoted by Reuters).

But J&J is not the only devicemaker facing pushback over vaginal mesh products. Big names like Boston Scientific ($BSX), Endo Health Solutions ($ENDP) and C.R. Bard ($BCR) are also dealing with a slew of mesh-related suits, choosing to lay claims to rest or battling it out in court. In March, Danish devicemaker Coloplast shelled out $16 million to settle lawsuits claiming it injured women with faulty vaginal-mesh inserts. In October, Endo followed suit and said it would add $400 million to its $1.2 billion stockpile to resolve "substantially all" of its remaining claims over vaginal mesh products.

Earlier this month, Boston Scientific suffered a setback as jurors in a Miami federal court ordered the company to pay $26.7 million to four women who claimed that its Pinnacle vaginal mesh implants caused them undue pain and suffering. None too pleased with jury's findings, the device giant said it has "strong grounds to overturn the verdict on post-trial motions and on appeal," spokeswoman Kelly Leadem told Bloomberg in an emailed statement.

- here's the MassDevice story
- get more from Reuters

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