The numbers of transvaginal mesh lawsuits keeps growing in the Charleston, West Virginia federal court where they are consolidated. At this writing there are 41,060 claims filed with thousands of suits naming six manufacturers being added every month.
For the most part, women say they saw legal advertisements on television and that’s how they started to connect the dots between their life post-mesh and the new crop of symptoms and injuries they are experiencing. But with that many lawsuits filed, why do we see almost no media coverage alerting women who still may be sold on the idea of being implanted with mesh to treat incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, especially since the products are still on the market?
From back and leg pain, infections, mesh erosion, some systemic injuries such as autoimmune disorders, rashes, chronic pelvic pain, it is not to difficult to understand that for many women these complaints only surfaced after they had been implanted with transvaginal mesh to treat incontinence or prolapse.
The 41,000 does not even take into account the individual actions that have been filed in New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and other states which run into the thousands. So with at least 50,000 lawsuits filed, the number of cases rival the claims against the dangerous non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) Vioxx, one of the largest mass tort cases ever filed.
Vioxx began to show its problems after a few years on the market. The painkiller was eventually linked to 38,000 deaths and about another 160,000 injuries from strokes and heart attack.
The first trial returned a jury verdict of $235 million to a Texas family. The jury verdict was later overturned as was the trial of a 53-year-old Florida resident who suffered a fatal heart attack. In fact Merck, the maker of Vioxx, won 11 of the 16 bellwether trials.
Despite that record, in 2007 Merck offered to create a $4.85 billion settlement fund that was divided among nearly 35,000 plaintiffs.
If the Vioxx litigation is any indication, plaintiffs in these mesh cases should not be counting on a lifetime annuity if the lawsuits are ever settled.
Payments for heart attack claims, some fatal in Vioxx litigation, ranged from $18,000 to $1.79 million. Stroke claims awards, including some fatalities, ranged from $5,000 to $820,000. There was an average payment for heart attack death claims of $374,112 and for fatal strokes, an average of $119,618. That is not all that Vioxx cost Merck. In 2012, the Department of Justice received a $950 million settlement to resolve civil and criminal charges for the off-labeling and misleading marketing of Vioxx.
Like mesh plaintiffs, Vioxx victims claim Merck did not disclose important information about the risks and misrepresented the potential dangers of the drug.
It remains to be seen how these mesh cases will play out. Defendants like Johnson & Johnson vow to try each case that comes its way. Anyone who thinks people file lawsuits as an annuity so they don’t have to work another day of their life just need to look at those numbers. How many people would trade a jury verdict for a return of their health?