On February 28, 2013 a new Jersey jury ordered Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to pay $7.76 million in punitive damages to a South Dakota nurse who claimed harm from the company’s now-recalled Prolift vaginal mesh reported Reuters.
There are many types of prolapse where vaginal mesh is used as a method of treatment: vaginal, uterine, pelvic organ, rectocele (rectal), and cytsocele (bladder). The Cleveland Clinic defines vaginal prolapse as the vagina stretching or expanding to protrude on other organ structures. The uterus protruding through the vagina is known as uterine prolapse. Pelvic muscles can become weakened when a woman has had multiple childbirths, gone through a strenuous labor or delivered a child heavy in weight. The weakening of pelvic muscles can lead to organs that have become prolapsed (fallen) and vaginal mesh is a synthetic material that can be used to hold the prolapsed organs in place.
In older woman, menopause and the general aging process can put strain on the muscles of pelvic area which can also lead to vaginal prolapse. Other causes can be obesity, chronic constipation and chronic respiratory issues. Prolapse is a common medical condition that increases with age.
Criteria as defined by The Cleveland Clinic.
What is a Vaginal Mesh? A Vaginal Mesh is a synthetic man made material that allows the body’s own tissue to grow onto the mesh. The mesh holds organs that are slipping, or collapsing, in place. Unfortunately, the mesh can harden, erode, and cause inflammation and bleeding which can lead to numerous surgeries and related complications.
An estimated 11,000 claims have been filed against vaginal mesh manufacturers nationwide. Currently, there are 4,000 lawsuits pending against J&J’s Gyncare Prolift vaginal mesh manufacturer, Ethicon. Linda Gross was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse and had a Gyncare Prolift vaginal mesh implant. Since her surgery, she has undergone 18 operations.
Johnson and Johnson stopped selling Prolift vaginal mesh last year. Gross v. Gynecare Inc. is the first case to go to verdict against J&J in New Jersey. The jury found J&J liable and awarded her a significant verdict. Specifically,the jury awarded Mrs. Gross $3.35 million in compensation. The $7.76 million in punitive damages (additional money awarded for malicious and fraudulent intent) was granted by the judge and awarded by the jury on the basis that J&J did not fully disclose the dangers of their product—totaling the settlement at $11.1 million.
In a Reuters article, “a member of the trial team for the plaintiff, called the jury verdict “a strong statement to Johnson and Johnson and Ethicon that they cannot put profits before women’s safety.”