J&J unit ordered to pay $57.1M to Pa. woman in pelvic mesh suit
Updated: SEPTEMBER 7, 2017 — 4:18 PM EDT
A Philadelphia jury on Thursday ordered a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson to pay $57.1 million in damages to a Pennsylvania woman who was left chronically incontinent and in constant pain after receiving defective pelvic mesh implants.
Ella Ebaugh, 51, of York County, received two implants of the Ethicon devices, which later eroded into her urethra, said her attorney, Kila Baldwin of Kline & Specter. Surgeons operated three times to remove the devices.
The Common Pleas Court verdict is the fifth, and largest yet, awarded in a pelvic mesh suit, Baldwin said, It included $50 million in punitive damages. In December 2015, an Indiana woman was awarded $12.5 million; in February 2016, a New Jersey woman received a $13.5 million award; in April 2017, a Cinnaminson woman was awarded $20 million; and in June, a Pennsylvania woman received $2.1 million.
A spokeswoman for Ethicon said the company would appeal the verdict.
“We believe the evidence showed Ethicon’s TVT and TVT-Secur devices were properly designed, Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the research, development and marketing of the products, and the products were not the cause of the plaintiff’s continuing medical problems,” said Kristen Wallace.
Thousands of women are believed to have been implanted with the devices, said Baldwin, who tried the case with Tracie Palmer and Elia Robertson, also of Kline & Specter.
Evidence introduced during the trial asserted J&J intentionally manipulated the literature regarding problems with the products and withheld information about complications and injuries from doctors, Baldwin said.
“I am pleased the jury recognized the reckless conduct of Johnson & Johnson,” Baldwin said, “and I hope the company takes notice of this verdict and the other verdicts in Philadelphia and amends its practices accordingly so as not to hurt other women.”
BREAKING: J&J Slammed With $57M Verdict In Philly Mesh Case
By Matt Fair
Law360, Philadelphia (September 7, 2017, 2:48 PM EDT) -- A Philadelphia jury on Thursday awarded $57.1 million in damages to a woman who accused a Johnson & Johnson unit of manufacturing a defective pelvic mesh implant that scarred her urethra and left her incontinent.
The award, which included $50 million in punitive damages, easily eclipses verdicts won by plaintiffs in four prior cases tried in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas as part of a mass tort program over allegedly defective pelvic mesh implants sold by Ethicon Inc.
The jury on Thursday unanimously backed claims from plaintiff Ella Ebaugh that a pair of negligently and defectively designed mesh devices had “mutilated” her urethra and left her with little control over her urinary flow.
Kila Baldwin, an attorney with Kline & Specter PC representing Ebaugh, said she hoped the verdict sent a message to Ethicon.
“Hopefully they recognize that their conduct was reckless,” she told Law360. “I hope this sends a clear message that they did something wrong with these products and that they really think, going forward, about what they do.”
Ebaugh’s case, which kicked off in early August, focused on two Ethicon mesh products — the TVT- Secur, which is no longer on the market, and the company’s “standard” TVT product, which is still being sold.
Ebaugh was implanted with a so-called TVT-Secur mesh device in May 2007 to treat symptoms of stress urinary incontinence and ultimately received a second TVT implant in the summer after her condition did not improve.
After reporting to her doctor three years later that she was having sudden urges to urinate and significant pelvic pain, it was discovered that the mesh had eroded into her urethra.
A series of surgical interventions followed that included one operation in which Baldwin said her client was cut open from “hip to hip” in an effort to remove as much of the mesh as possible. Despite the operations, scarring from the mesh implants had essentially propped open her urethra and left her all but incontinent, Baldwin told jurors during closing arguments on Tuesday.
Ethicon came into the Ebaugh case with a losing record after four out of five juries in prior trials in Philadelphia County sided with plaintiffs to the tune of nearly $50 million in total damages.
A jury in the fifth case decided in June that while the TVT-Secur had been defectively designed, it was not the cause of an Ohio woman’s injuries. A judge, however, agreed a month later that the verdict was inconsistent and ordered a new trial on damages.
Until Thursday, the largest verdict the company had faced in a mesh case in Philadelphia had been a $20 million award handed down in April. That award included $17.5 million in punitive damages.
Ethicon spokeswoman Kristen Wallace said in a statement on Thursday that the company "empathized" with individuals suffering from urinary stress incontinence and stood behind the safety and efficacy of its products.
"We believe the evidence showed Ethicon’s TVT and TVT-Secur devices were properly designed, Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the research, development and marketing of the products, and the products were not the cause of the plaintiff’s continuing medical problems," she said.
She added that the company planned to appeal.
Ebaugh is represented by Kila Baldwin of Kline & Specter PC.
Ethicon is represented by W. Curt Webb and Kat Gallagher of Beck Redden LLP.
The case is Ella Ebaugh et al. v. Ethicon Inc. et al., case number 130700866, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.
--Additional reporting by Dan Packel. Editing by Christine Chun.