Since transvaginal mesh was first introduced into the market over 20 years ago, many hundreds of thousands of women have undergone operations where doctors have inserted vaginal mesh devices, threading them through incisions in the vagina to fortify pelvic muscles that failed to support internal organs or to treat incontinence, according to court filings.
All filed federal product liability lawsuits claiming injuries with transvaginal mesh or bladder slings used for repair of pelvic organ prolapse and female stress urinary incontinence are centralized. In February 2012, multidistrict litigation (MDL) cases against the mesh manufacturers were consolidated. The Ethicon consolidated cases are In re Ethicon Inc. Pelvic Repair System Products Liability Litigation.
Defendant’s pelvic mesh products set forth in the Ethicon master complaint are :
- Prolift +M
- Gynemesh/Gynemesh PS
- TVT-Obturator (TVT-O)
- TVT-SECUR (TVT-S)
The women all allege that the vaginal mesh implants can erode, cause infection and pain, bleeding and require mesh-removal surgeries. Often the mesh cannot be entirely removed because they are deeply embedded in tissue. Women contend some of the devices erode after being implanted, which can cause organ damage, pain and make sexual intercourse painful.
Bellwether trials have been used in our legal system where there are large numbers of similar claims or lawsuits against the same defendant. A bellwether trial is a procedure where a representative case or cases are selected to be tried before a jury to assist the court and the parties in evaluating information and evidence, and possibly predicting future trends about a larger group of cases.
A federal jury in West Virginia awarded $3.27 million to Jo Husky in September 2014. Ms. Huskey claimed her Ethicon Gynecare TVT mesh caused permanent injuries and Ethicon failed to warn her. This was the second bellwether case to go to trial.
Another bellwether trial was scheduled to begin early December, but was postponed until March 2015. The case settled during the fourth day of the trial. Diane M. Bellew, who had a Ethicon Prolift Anterior Floor Repair System implant for pelvic organ prolapse alleged that after the surgery, which occurred in Arizona, she had multiple complications, including mesh erosion, mesh contraction, inflammation, dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse), urinary incontinence, chronic pain, and recurring prolapse of organs. In addition, she alleged she had four subsequent operations to remove and revise the implanted mesh.
The allegations raised by Ms. Bellew are typical of those brought in other claims, showing she suffered a long list of injuries due to the defective design of the Ethicon Gynecare Prolift vaginal mesh, including chronic pain, mesh contraction, mesh erosion, pain during sexual intercourse, recurring prolapse of organs and urinary incontinence.
The next bellwether trial against Ethicon has been rescheduled from July 13, 2015 to August 24, 2015. Of all the mesh manufacturers, Ethicon has been the slowest to offer settlements. The company also faces the highest number of federal lawsuits.