Judge Reverses Johnson & Johnson’s First Pelvic Mesh Lawsuit Victory

In June, a Philadelphia jury gave Johnson & Johnson its first win in five trials related to the company’s pelvic mesh devices, but a Pennsylvania state court judge has overturned part of the ruling and is now ordering the pharmaceutical company to pay damages.

In a July 19 ruling, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Erdos ruled in favor of plaintiff Kimberly Adkins, an Ohio woman who sued Johnson & Johnson in 2013. In her suit, Adkins claimed that the TVT-Secur mesh device implanted in her body to treat urinary incontinence in July 2010 was defectively designed. She said the device had eroded into her vaginal canal and caused significant pain.

The jury had initially agreed that the product was defectively designed but that the device was not the cause of her injuries. In her post-trial motions, she argued the conclusion of the jury was inconsistent.

“Even if the jury disbelieved plaintiff’s testimony, found the testimony inconsistent or concluded plaintiff was exaggerating her injuries, the jury was not free to reject the undisputed consensus of both sides’ experts and the treating physician that plaintiff suffered some injury from the implantation of mesh,” the motion said, according to The Legal Intelligencer.

The judge agreed, granting her one part of her motion. Although the judge did not issue a reason for the reversal, Johnson & Johnson will now pay damages from the claims that the product was defectively designed after a damages hearing.

The attorney for Adkins, Bryan Aylstock, said they were happy with the decision.

“We are grateful that the court recognized this inconsistency and ordered a new trial on damages so that justice could be served and an appropriate amount [of] damages awarded to Ms. Adkins for her injuries and for JNJ’s malicious conduct in putting these defective mesh products on the market,” Aylstock said in an email to Law360.

A spokeswoman for Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, sent The Legal Intelligencer a statement in an email in response to the ruling.

“We are considering our next legal options in this case in light of this decision,” she said.

Judge Denied Other Portions of Post-Trial Motion

Although Erdos found in favor of Adkins in one part of her post-trial motion, he denied two other part of the post-trial motion.

The motion claimed that Adkins should have been able to strike a juror off the case because she was a medical engineer at GlaxoSmithKline and had worked with polypropylene mesh before. That juror could have potentially been affected economically by the outcome of the case.

The motion also said the finding that her implanting surgeon had been warned about the risks should be set aside because “the jury ruling that the mesh implant did not cause her injuries precluded them from finding there was a failure to warn,” according to Law360.

The judge did not assent to either claim.

J&J Suffers String of Losses in Pelvic Mesh Trials

Before the jury found in favor of Johnson & Johnson in June, the pharmaceutical giant suffered a string of losses in trials related to its pelvic mesh cases.

In the fourth bellwether trial for the mass tort in May, Johnson & Johnson was hit with a $2.1 million verdict by a jury. This followed a $20 million verdict against the company in the third bellwether trial.

Two other juries in Philadelphia found against Johnson & Johnson in 2015 and 2016 as well. Those cases were for $12.5 million and $13.5 million respectively.

Johnson & Johnson is currently trying to appeal those losses. Ethicon has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review one of its pelvic mesh losses.