A New Jersey woman received jury verdicts totaling $11.1 million in a lawsuit alleging injuries caused by a medical implant. The suit, Gross v. Ethicon, No. Atl-L-6966-10 (N.J. Sup. Ct., Atlantic Co.), is one of more than four thousand filed nationwide against manufacturers of mesh implants. The implant, intended to offset the effects of a condition known as pelvic organ prolapse, has been associated with serious and debilitating complications, sometimes requiring surgery to correct. The jury rejected a design defect claim, but found for the plaintiff on her failure to warn allegation. This was the first of the many pending mesh implant cases to go to trial.
The product in question, generally known as a transvaginal mesh implant, first came on the market about a decade ago as a treatment for pelvic organ prolapse. This is a condition associated with childbirth, certain surgeries, obesity, and other conditions, in which the pelvic muscles weaken and cannot adequately support the pelvic organs. This causes organs such as the bladder or uterus to drop, or prolapse, from their usual place in the body, creating pressure against other organs. The results may include mild to severe pain, incontinence, and constipation. The mesh implants are made of a porous material and act as a sling to support the affected organs. After hundreds of thousands of women received implants, thousands complained of pain, bleeding, and infections, and needed corrective surgery.
The plaintiff, who lives in South Dakota, received an implant of a device called the Prolift, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon Surgical Care. Complications from the implant, she claimed, caused severe pain, and eventually required eighteen unsuccessful surgeries to try to repair the damage caused to her organs. She said that she had to leave her job as a hospice nurse in 2006 due to complications caused by the implant. Her lawsuit asserted multiple causes of action related to products liability, including manufacturing or design defect and failure to warn of known risks.