Johnson & Johnson Hit With $35 Million Surgical Mesh Implant Verdict

$35 Million Verdict For Plaintiff In Ethicon Prolift Mesh Implant Trial Including $25 Million In Punitive Damages

ETHICON PROLIFT SURGICAL MESH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A jury trial in the US District Court of Northern Indiana returned a verdict against Johnson & Johnson and its Ethicon division, that included $25 million in punitive and $10 million in compensatory damages. The jury found that that Ethicon was negligent in the design of the Prolift surgical mesh implant device, as an unreasonably dangerous product, resulting in post-implant injuries to plaintiff  Barbara Kaiser of Valparaiso, Indiana.

This verdict is the latest plaintiff trial win in the ongoing Ethicon Pelvic Mesh MDL 2327 litigation (See Ethicon MDL 2327 Litigation Briefcase), which includes the overall master docket data which guided the Barbara Kaiser case, prior to being remanded back to the Indiana court for trial by Judge Joseph Goodwin, from the US District Court of West Virginia, where the Ethicon Pelvic Mesh MDL cases are docketed. The Ethicon pelvic mesh litigation still has thousands of remaining cases, where plaintiffs have asserted claims against Ethicon and J&J over their surgical mesh line of products.

The trial took place in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, where a nine-person jury returned a verdict against Johnson & Johnson et al., the industry leader in  pharmaceuticals and medical devices, after finding that Johnson & Johnson marketed, sold, and recruited physicians worldwide to implant the controversial “Ethicon Prolift” mesh device for Pelvic Floor Repair in women that suffered from pelvic prolapse.

The verdict was handed down after nearly a two-week jury trial that began on Monday, February 26th, concluding on March 8th, 2018.

The verdict confirmed claims that Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon are  liable for its defective product line, designed for use in surgical procedures where the Pelvic organ prolapse repair is used, confirming primary plaintiff claims that the Defendants were negligent in the design of Prolift as an unreasonably dangerous product, resulting in long term injuries to Mrs. Barbara Kaiser of Valparaiso, Indiana as a result of the surgical implant of the Prolift device. The jury found Ethicon deliberately failed to warn of the risks to Prolapse patients prior to consenting to the Prolift mesh implant surgery and sold a Prolift product in a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition.

“The $35 million verdict is one of the largest verdicts in the country,” said lead trial counsel Thomas Plouff, further stating “Ethicon defended an indefensible product and the jury stood up for Barb Kaiser. They were asked to send a message to Ethicon to deter future wrong doing and they certainly did, a company that sold a medical device without doing any clinical testing and caused thousands of women to suffer painful complications from mesh in their pelvic area.”

The trial in front of the Honorable Judge Philip P. Simon, in Northwest Indiana, in what is known as a fairly conservative court venue for plaintiffs seeking damages against manufacturers of products, with Northwest Indiana being a major manufacturing center and not being known for massive verdicts such as the Kaiser mesh award. The verdict requires the Johnson & Johnson corporate conglomerate to pay $35 million, which is $10 million for compensatory damages (for Mrs. Barb Kaiser’s dyspareunia, pelvic pain, levator myalgia, painful bladder spasms, and groin pain), and $25 million in punitive damages. The high punitive damage figure would seem to send a clear message to J&J that their conduct related to the design and marketing of the Prolift product was wrong and intentional, resulting in the very large punitive award.

The Kaiser mesh lawsuit is part of an ongoing legal battle between plaintiffs and surgical mesh makers across the country regarding the many thousands of injuries resulting from various mesh products being surgically implanted. The Ethicon Pelvic Repair MDL 2327 has been in existence since 2012 and the judge is moving toward resolution of those 40 thousand plus claims against many of the largest medical device manufacturers in the world. However, the currently evolving “hernia mesh” legal and medical issue are outline below.

 Hernia Mesh Injuries and Complications

Unlike sutures, which have relatively few and minor possible complications, hernia mesh frequently causes life-threatening complications. Hernia mesh can erode into the bowel, requiring multiple additional surgeries, weeks of hospitalization, partial bowel removal, colostomies, and more. The mesh failure frequently causes patients to experience a systemic infection. We recently observed high rates of dental infections associated with mesh failure. Many victims report all of their teeth suddenly rotting out. Even if there is a slightly lower rate of hernia recurrence when mesh is used, it doesn’t justify the risk of life-threatening complications.

Hernia mesh is used to repair both ventral hernias and inguinal hernias. Various injuries and complications can occur depending on what part of the body the mesh is placed. A coated hernia mesh is also more likely to cause injuries such as infection than a non-coated hernia mesh. The follow is a list of the array of complications we observed:

  • Infection, including sepsis. An infected hernia mesh almost always requires removal.
  • Adhesions form to connect the bowel to the hernia mesh. Adhesions frequently form when ventral hernias are repaired with a coated mesh.
  • Bowel Obstruction caused by adhesion formation. Evidenced by a change in bowel habits or the inability to defecate.
  • Abdominal Pain is a sign of possible adhesion formation, a bowel obstruction, infection, or nerve damage.
  • Rashes are commonly observed in association with hernia meshes such as the C-Qur V-Patch and Ventralex ST.
  • Leg, Groin, and Testicular Pain are all common to inguinal hernias repaired with mesh. This pain can be debilitating.
  • Pain with Sex (Dyspareunia) caused from the mesh used to repair an inguinal hernia attaching to the spermatic cord.
  • Testicle Removal may be necessary if the mesh erodes far enough into the spermatic cord.
  • Diarrhea can be an early symptom of the mesh attaching to the bowel.
  • Constipation can be a sign of a bowel obstruction. You should consult a doctor if your constipation persist for several days.
  • Nausea can be an additional sign of adhesions to the bowel and stomach.
  • Seroma is a fluid capsule surrounding the mesh. Seromas can be present with and without infection.
  • Fistula. An abnormal tunnel between two structures. Our attorneys observe many fistulas connecting to the bowel, which are associated with infections.
  • Dental Problems. Medical reviewers have observed a large number of patients who have lost their teeth after a hernia mesh infection.
  • Autoimmune Disorders. An alarming number of our patients have developed autoimmune disorders after being implanted with a pelvic or hernia mesh.
  • Neurological Changes. Several different patients that have been implanted with the same type of mesh have been diagnosed with unexplained neurological changes on a CT scan.
  • Severe Headache. Typically a sign of a larger problem, such as an infection.
  • Fever. Associated with both an autoimmune response to the mesh and infection.
  • Renal Failure has been observed in those implanted with large coated meshes. The coatings are absorbable and put a great deal of strain on the kidneys.
  • Liver Abnormalities have also been documented in those implanted with coated hernia meshes. The liver is also responsible for cleansing the body.
  • Joint Aches and Pain can be caused by increased systemic inflammation due to infection and an autoimmune reaction to the mesh.
  • Abnormal Sweating can be related to an autoimmune response or to an infection.
  • Meshoma is the migration, contracture, or bunching-up of an artificial mesh. Meshomas become hard, tumor-like bodies.

         SURGICAL MESH ISSUES

  • Composite Mesh: The Most Dangerous Type of Hernia Mesh
  • Any mesh with a coating is known as a composite mesh. Most of the manufacturers promote the meshes coating as a “barrier” and instruct surgeons to use the coating as a barrier. The FDA requires any “barrier” type of medical device to undergo Pre-Market Approval and pre-clinical studies to ensure the device’s safety. Instead of conducting safety studies, companies just told the FDA that they wouldn’t promote their hernia mesh as a “barrier.” A majority of the meshes currently being used in hernia repair are untested composite meshes that have only been on the market for a few years. There is currently no reliable data on these hernia mesh products. Medical reviewers are currently noticing a very high rate of complications associated with hernia meshes that are coated.
  • Big Profits Making Composite Mesh
  • Due to the complications that polypropylene was causing when it came in direct contact with the bowel, the demand for composite hernia mesh skyrocketed. Any company with a composite mesh could rapidly increase its nationwide market share. Mesh products were already one of the most profitable medical devices a company could manufacture, many making over $100,000,000 a year! A composite mesh also sells for approximately 15 – 20 times more than an uncoated polypropylene mesh. Suddenly, every device manufacturer rushed to get a composite mesh on the market. Many companies created and sold several different types of composite hernia mesh at the same time. If one type of composite mesh caused too many side effects, the company would simply quit manufacturing that particular composite mesh. There are currently over 350,000 hernia repairs in the United States each year.
  • There are many different hernia mesh products available, many of which are manufactured by different medical device companies. The strengths and weaknesses of a hernia mesh lawsuit are in part determined by which company manufactured the hernia mesh and the exact mesh that was utilized. Below is a list of products that have received a large number of complaints. Bookmark this page and check back soon, this list is growing and we continue to add more unique content every week!
  • Ethicon – Johnson & Johnson
  • Proceed Hernia Mesh
  • The Proceed hernia mesh came to market in 2003. The Proceed is a light-weight hernia mesh with an Oxidized Regenerated Cellulose (ORC) fabric covering the polypropylene. The cellulose is adhered to the polypropylene with polydioxanone (PDS). Ethicon touts the Proceed’s barrier as supporting “safe and comfortable healing.” Ethicon has previously issued limited recalls on the Proceed hernia mesh, because of the cellulose layer separating from the polypropylene and increasing the risk of bowel complications. The Proceed hernia mesh continues to delaminate and should be permanently recalled. Physicians have submitted 100’s of adverse event reports to the FDA and Johnson & Johnson regarding the Proceed hernia mesh being defective and injuring patients.
  • Physiomesh:
  • The Physiomesh was withdrawn from the market in May of 2016. Ethicon maintains that they did not recall the Physiomesh. The Physiomesh was a composite hernia mesh. Multiple studies revealed that Ethicon’s Physiomesh had high rates of complications, including subsequent hernias and additional surgeries. Ethicon admitted that they’re unable to determine why the Physiomesh is defective, or how to decrease complications for those who had a Physiomesh implanted. Part of the problem was likely that the Physiomesh had a coating on each side of the mesh. The coating prevented the Physiomesh from properly incorporating with the host tissue. Prior to removing (not recalling) the Physiomesh from the market, Ethicon created a new hernia mesh called Physiomesh Open.
  • Prolene Hernia System:
  • The Prolene Hernia System(PHS) was introduced to the market in 1997. The Prolene Hernia System is similar to polypropylene mesh plugs with a polypropylene onlay. In fact, the Prolene Hernia System cites Bard’s Perfix plug as a predicate device. Our hernia mesh lawyers have observed similar complications associated with the Prolene Hernia System and the Perfix plug. The Prolene Hernia System utilizes heavy-weight polypropylene. In 2007, Ethicon came out with the Ultrapro Hernia System, a light-weight version of the Prolene Hernia System. Light-weight polypropylene was believed to cause less complications than heavy-weight polypropylene. Injuries associated with the PHS include debilitating pain, nerve damage, and sexual dysfunction necessitating testicle removal.
  • Covidien – Medtronic
  • Parietex:
  • The Parietex hernia mesh was Covidien’s first polyester hernia mesh. The Parietex originally came to the market in 1999 as a heavy-weight polyester mesh. The original Parietex caused many problems similar to polypropylene based hernia meshes, such as adhesions, infections, and bowel complications. Like polypropylene, polyester also shrinks and contracts to a significant degree after it is implanted in the body. As the Parietex contracts, tension increases and the mesh has a tendency to tear where the tacks or sutures were used to secure it. Severe pain and a recurrence of the hernia typically result when the Parietex mesh rips apart. After the Parietex detaches it can migrate to other parts of the body.
  • Parietex Composite Mesh:
  • Parietex ProGrip/Plug and Patch System
  • The Parietex Composite(PCO) mesh is composed of a polyester base with a resorbable collagen barrier. The resorbable collagen barrier is intended to prevent the polyester base from adhering to the patient’s bowel. Covidien touts the Parietex as a unique material that “works with the body’s natural systems.” However, many of our clients would disagree. The collagen layer of the Parietex Composite hernia mesh is very thin and delicate. The collagen layer disappears quickly after implantation and does little to nothing to protect the bowel and underlying organs from the polyester base. Recently, Covidien came out with the Parietex Optimized Composite Mesh in an attempt to fix the problems associated with the collagen layer. The hernia mesh lawyers at the Hollis Law Firm frequently see severe adhesions, bowel obstructions, and infections associated with the Parietex Composite hernia mesh. Additionally, like the original Parietex, the Parietex Composite tears easily on sutures or tacks as it begins to contract post implantation.
  • The Parietex ProGripand the Parietex Plug and Patch System are made from polyester weaved together with a partially semi-resorbable polylactic acid (PLA) layer. The Parietex ProGrip is a “self-fixating” mesh because it has thousands of hooks that are intended to keep the mesh in place. However, the thousands of hooks also cause patients to experience severe pain and make the hernia mesh nearly impossible to remove. When the Parietex ProGrip fails and complications result, multiple surgeries are usually required to remove the underlying problem: the defective Parietex ProGrip hernia mesh. Covidien was recently acquired by Medtronic for nearly $50 billion. Covidien is also one of many defendant mesh manufacturers in the pelvic mesh litigation
  • Atrium – Maquet – Getinge Group
  • C-Qur Hernia Mesh:
  • The C-Qur is a composite hernia mesh that came to market in 2006, and was initially marketed by Atrium Medical Corporation. Maquet, a subsidiary of the Getinge Group, acquired Atrium in 2011 and now manufactures the C-Qur hernia mesh. The FDA has issued several warnings letters and even sued Atrium Medical Corporation for violations. Recently, the FDA shut down one of Atrium’s facilities that manufactured the C-Qur hernia mesh. Atrium has only issued recalls on the C-Qur’s packaging, not on the actual C-Qur hernia mesh itself.
  • The C-Qur hernia mesh has an Omega-3 Fatty Acid coating that causes severe allergic reactions. The C-Qur hernia mesh is also associated with life-threatening systemic infections. Removing the C-Qur mesh is extremely difficult and can result in further injury. The C-Qur hernia mesh remains on the market, even as lawsuits continue to mount. Our hernia mesh recall lawyers continue to receive frequent complaints related to the C-Qur hernia mesh.
  • Davol – C.R. Bard
  • Kugel Hernia Mesh:
  • The Kugel hernia mesh was one of first and most well known hernia meshes to be recalled. C.R. Bard recalled several lots of the Kugel hernia patch in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Kugel hernia mesh patch has a ring in the middle of the mesh to help it keep it’s shape. Multiple lots of the Kugel hernia mesh were recalled due to a large number of reported ring breaks. Many patients have suffered bowel perforations as a result of the inner ring of the Kugel hernia patch breaking. Davol only recalled limited lots of the Kugel, claiming that certain lots had defective rings. Davol continues selling the Kugel hernia mesh to this day. The real problem with the Kugel hernia mesh is that it’s made of polypropylene, which shrinks over time. As the polypropylene mesh shrinks, more and more force is applied to the ring. Eventually, the ring breaks due to the shrinkage of the polypropylene.
  • 3d Max
  • The 3DMax is a bare heavy-weight polypropylene mesh used to treat inguinal hernias. In 2008, Bard released a light-weight version of the 3DMax called the 3DMax light. Patients nationwide have experienced severe, debilitating pain after being implanted with the Bard 3DMax mesh. The 3DMax mesh can erode through soft tissue and then attach to the spermatic cord in men, causing severe sexual dysfunction and testicle pain. Once the mesh is attached to the spermatic cord, there is a risk of losing the testicle when removing the mesh. The 3DMax is curved, and is intended to be implanted without any sutures or tacks. Our hernia mesh attorneys have identified many cases where the Bard 3DMax has folded over upon itself and migrated inside the patient. As can be seen in the picture, the outer sealed edge of the 3DMax also has a tendency to easily break and tear. The sealed edge is intended to help the 3DMax maintain its shape. Bard’s 3DMax simply is not fit for permanent, life-long human implantation.
  • PerFix Plug
  • The PerFix Plugis a bare polypropylene mesh used to treat inguinal hernias. The PerFix Plug looks like a double layer dart with an overlay patch. The polypropylene of the PerFix Plug has been observed to come unwoven over time. Many experience severe pain and difficultly exercising and even walking after being implanted with the Bard PerFix Plug. The PerFix Plug is another hernia mesh that has caused many men to loose a testicle. The PerFix Plug is not necessary to repair an inguinal hernia.
  • Ventralex (Supramesh)
  • In 2007, Bard bought the license to Sepramesh from Sanofi Genzyme. The Sepramesh was intended to “Separate the polypropylene from the bowel.” Bard then created the Ventralex ST hernia mesh by combining the Sepramesh and the Kugel mesh. Bard recalled several lots of the Kugel hernia mesh approximately a decade ago. Bard has yet to issue a recall on any lot of the Ventralex ST hernia mesh.Bard also claims that the Ventralex SThernia mesh’s coating is similar to the coating used on the C-Qur hernia mesh. Like with the C-Qur, researchers are seeing severe inflammatory reactions, infections, and adhesions related to the Ventralex ST. Please note that Sepramesh, Ventrio ST and Ventralight ST are also included in the Ventralex ST lawsuit.
  • Scientific Articles on Hernia Mesh
  • The below articles are on hernia mesh in general. Each hernia mesh subpage also contains additional case specific scientific articles.
  • August 2016: Evaluation of Long-Term Surgical Site Occurrences in Ventral Hernia Repair: Implications of Preoperative Site Independent MRSA Infection.
  • 632 patients were studied for two years after being implanted with hernia mesh. 31% experienced complications within just two years. Complications included cellulitis, necrosis, nonhealing wound, seroma, hematoma, dehiscence, and fistula. Patients with a preoperative MRSA+ infection from any site (urine, blood, surgical site), might be at an elevated risk for hernia mesh complications.
  • August 2016: Oral, Intestinal, and Skin Bacteria in Ventral Hernia Mesh Implants.
  • 36 patients with failed hernia mesh were studied. All participants were found to have gingivitis and 33% had infected gums and teeth. Oral bacteria was discovered on 43% of explanted hernia mesh. The study discusses the difficulty in knowing the real rate of hernia mesh infections, due to lack of standardized criteria to define infection, lack of follow-up exams, and lack of intervention when complications arise. It notes that hernia mesh infection is the most common reason for mesh removal.
  • June 2016: Sepramesh and Postoperative Peritoneal Adhesions in a Rat Model.
  • The study notes that “postoperative peritoneal adhesions occurred at the extremities of the mesh, where there was close contact between the polypropylene and viscera, or where the fixation suture was placed.”
  • August 2015:Previous Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Infection Independent of Body Site Increases Odds of Surgical Site Infection after Ventral Hernia Repair.
  • 768 patients underwent hernia repair. 10% experienced a hernia mesh infection. 33% of patients with a preoperative MRSA+ infection experienced a hernia mesh infection.
  • May 2014: Comparison of Outcomes of Synthetic Mesh vs Suture Repair of Elective Primary Ventral Herniorrhaphy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
  • 637 hernia mesh repairs and 1145 suture repairs were compared. Hernia mesh repair was associated with a slightly lower rate of recurrence, but a higher rate of severe complications. The authors admit that “further high-quality studies are necessary to determine whether suture or mesh repair leads to improved outcomes for primary ventral hernias.”
  • November 2013: Coated Meshes for Hernia Repair Provide Comparable Intraperitoneal Adhesion Prevention.
  • Uncoated polypropylene was compared to various types of coated polypropylene placed intraperitonally via laparoscopic procedure. The uncoated polypropylene hernia mesh resulted in significantly more adhesions.
  • October 2013: Biologic Meshes are Not Superior to Synthetic Meshes in Ventral Hernia Repair: An Experimental Study with Long-Term Follow-Up Evaluation.
  • The study notes that “In laparoscopic incisional hernia repair, direct contact between the prosthesis and the abdominal viscera is inevitable, which may lead to an inflammatory reaction resulting in abdominal adhesion formation.” The authors advise additional research is necessary, and to be wary of short-term experimental results on laparoscopically placed hernia mesh.
  • October 2013:Intra Peritoneal Polypropylene Mesh and Newer Meshes in Ventral Hernia Repair: What EBM Says?
  • The authors are concerned about using polypropylene mesh (PPM) for laparoscopic hernia repair. They question if paying 15-20 times more for a composite mesh is worth it. The study notes “Complications of intraperitoneal PPM (adhesions, infection, intestinal fistulization, sinus formation, seroma and recurrence) can occur with the newer mesh also. There is no statistically significant difference in the incidence of these complications between these meshes.”
  • August 2012: Ventral Hernia Repair with Synthetic, Composite, and Biologic Mesh: Characteristics, Indications, and Infection Profile.
  • The study notes that polypropylene “is unsuitable for intra-abdominal placement because of its tendency to induce bowel adhesions.”
  • August 2011: Complications of Mesh Devices for Intraperitoneal Umbilical Hernia Repair: A Word of Caution.
  • The surgeons note experiencing serious complications in several patients implanted with a composite mesh. Injuries included small bowel resections and mesh removal. The study notes “We think that, if preperitoneal deployment of such mesh devices is possible, this should be the preferred position, notwithstanding the fact that these meshes have a dual layer. There is a complete lack of convincing data on these mesh devices in the medical literature.No long-term data have been published, and, for three of the four mesh devices available, no publications on their use in humans were found.”
  • July 2011: Mesh Infection in Ventral Incisional Hernia Repair: Incidence, Contributing Factors, and Treatment.
  • The study discusses the need for a better identification, classification and reporting systems for hernia mesh infections. It notes part of the difficulty is that hernia mesh implants have a tendency to remain dormant for long periods of time. It can take years before a hernia mesh infection is identified.
  • January 2010: Oral Biofilms: Emerging Concepts in Microbial Ecology.
  • The overall health and biology of an individual is closely linked to which oral biofilms develop.
  • June 2009: The Problem of Mesh Shrinkage in Laparoscopic Incisional Hernia Repair. 
  • Laparoscopic hernia repair requires expanding the abdomen with approximately 3 liters of gas. The surface area of the abdominal wall is stretched by about 80% during laparoscopic repair. Surgeons must anticipate significant mesh shrinkage in laparoscopic hernia repair. Mesh shrinkage remains one of the unsolved problems of laparoscopic incisional hernia repair.
  • How Does the FDA Learn About Hernia Mesh Complications?
  • If a hernia mesh fails within a few years and the same surgeon that implanted the mesh removes the mesh, the surgeon will sometimes report the complication to the manufacturer. It is then the manufacturers duty to determine if the complication warrants notifying the FDA. Through our investigations, we uncovered that many manufacturers fail to report adverse events related to hernia mesh to the FDA. Surgeons will also occasionally file adverse event reports directly to the FDA, but the process is very time consuming. As a result, the FDA is only aware of a very small percentage of total hernia mesh complications. The manufacturers of hernia mesh then cite to low rates of hernia mesh complications reported to the FDA as evidence that hernia mesh is safe!
  • Are There Other Ways to Report Hernia Mesh Complications to the FDA?
  • If you have suffered hernia mesh complications, you can alert the FDA through a MedWatch Report. You can also alert the FDA by filing a hernia mesh lawsuit against the manufacturer of the mesh. When a manufacturer is notified of a pending hernia mesh lawsuit, the manufacturer must report the basis of the hernia mesh lawsuit to the FDA. Medical device companies are allowed too much discretion on if they have to notify the FDA when a surgeon reports a hernia mesh adverse event. The medical device companies do not have discretion on reporting a hernia mesh lawsuit to the FDA. The companies must report every single hernia mesh lawsuit to the FDA.

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