Wronged by a medical implant — and fighting back


We’re seeing this more and more often: The world’s best-known medical-device makers are creating shoddy and dangerous products, failing to warn doctors and their patients about the risks, and then compounding their error by trying to cover their tracks rather than inform the public. As a result, good people get injured — and they don’t always know where to turn.

Johnson & Johnson is the largest manufacturer of medical devices and implants — and unfortunately the New Jersey giant also seems to be the source of some of the most egregious problems. Earlier this year, I wrote about how government regulators allowed big companies like J&J to begin implanting some all-metal hip replacements without any clinical trials whatsoever. The failure of so many of these implants has harmed thousands of patients. But it turns out that faulty hip replacements weren’t the only shoddy devices marketed by the firm.

Now there’s been a major jury verdict involving J&J’s vaginal mesh implants:

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)’s Ethicon unit failed to properly warn of the risks of a vaginal mesh implant and made fraudulent misrepresentations to a South Dakota nurse who sued, a New Jersey jury ruled in the first verdict in more than 2,100 lawsuits filed over the device.

Jurors ordered J&J to pay $3.35 million to the nurse, Linda Gross, and her husband. Gross, 47, had 18 operations after the device was implanted.

J&J, the world’s biggest seller of health-care products, didn’t defectively design the mesh and didn’t make fraudulent misrepresentations to Gross’s doctor, the jury ruled. Jurors decided that the company failed to warn Gross’s implanting surgeon. The verdict in Atlantic City state court came in the first trial of claims Ethicon’s Gynecare Prolift injured women.

“This verdict establishes that Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon failed to tell physicians and women the truth about the catastrophic complications that can result from the Prolift,” Gross attorney Adam Slater said in an interview.

Slater argued to jurors that company documents and e-mails showed Ethicon knew the mesh would cause pain and harm women. Gross blamed the mesh for constant pain that makes it hard to sit and for subsequent operations to remove mesh that hardened.

The jurors will have an opportunity to decide on awarding punative damages, which could run as high as an additional $16.75 million. One can certainly make a compelling argument for J&J to pay such a stiff penalty.  The evidence that was present at trial showed that the company told Gross and her physician that there was little risk involved in the vaginal implant and it could be removed easily if there was a problem — when in fact the opposite was true. The North Dakota woman testified she has visited doctors or physical therapists more than 400 times for the pain.

“Who you see standing here now is not who I was,” Gross told jurors. “I was eager and energetic, loved to go to work, loved to participate in church activities, school activities.”

This just breaks your heart to read about. The only upside is that increasingly juries are siding with patients who’ve been through these horrific experiences — and with the help of an experienced lawyer it’s possible to attain some measure of justice. Hopefully, as more of these verdicts take place and are publicized, we’ll have fewer horror stories — eventually.

To learn more about the jury’s verdict in the Ethicon case, please read: http://www.sfgate.com/business/bloomberg/article/J-J-Failed-to-Warn-of-Vaginal-Mesh-Risks-N-J-4307290.php

To read my Jan. 21 post about the sordid history of faulty hip replacements, check out: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/thousands-of-failures-later-feds-to-finally-regulate-hip-replacements/

© Smith Stag, LLC 2013 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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