ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - (Mealey's) A New Jersey court on Feb. 26 is hearing evidence for a punitive damages verdict in the state's first pelvic mesh bellwether trial, a day after returning a $3.35 million compensatory verdict for a woman who claims to have debilitating injuries from the device (In Re Pelvic Mesh / Gynecare Litigation, No. 291, Linda Gross v. Ethicon, No. ATL-L-6966-10, N.J. Super., Atlantic Co.).
On Feb. 25, a jury in the Atlantic County Superior Court awarded Linda Gross and her husband $3.35 million after finding that defendant Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, defectively designed its Gynecare Prolift pelvic mesh sling and failed to adequately warn her or her doctor about the device's risks, sources told Mealey Publications.
Gross also sought punitive damages, but Judge Carol E. Higbee bifurcated that claim until after the jury ruled on liability and compensatory damages.
Tissue Erosion Injuries
In 2006, Gross was surgically implanted with the Prolift device, also known as a pelvic sling or vaginal sling, to treat pelvic organ prolapse. Afterward, Gross claims, the mesh hardened inside her and eroded through her vaginal wall.
Gross alleges that she has had to undergo multiple surgeries to remove pieces of the mesh, which she says has caused pain that makes it difficult for her to sit for long periods of time. In 2008, Gross sued Ethicon in the Superior Court, where the state's multicounty pelvic mesh litigation is centralized.
Gross alleged that the device was defectively designed, that the defendant failed to provide adequate warnings to her doctor about the device's risks and that Ethicon made a fraudulent misrepresentation about the device.
Gross sought compensatory damages for pain, suffering, lost wages and medical expenses.
Defense: Design Proper, Warning Adequate
Ethicon argued that the Prolift device was properly designed and that it adequately warned doctors about the device's risks.
In a statement yesterday, Ethicon spokesperson Sheri Woodruff called the verdict "mixed." "While we are always concerned when a patient experiences medical conditions like those suffered by the plaintiff, all surgeries for pelvic organ prolapse present risks of complications," she said.
The trial began Jan. 10. The jury deliberated five days.
Products Off Market
Last year, Ethicon stopped selling pelvic mesh devices, including the Prolift.
Gross' counsel represents 82 other clients on the Ethicon docket of New Jersey's pelvic mesh multicounty litigation. The docket includes claims involving similar devices by C.R. Bard Inc.
Federal litigation involving at least five manufacturers, including Ethicon, has been centralized in a multidistrict litigation.
Gross is represented by Adam Slater and David Mazie of Mazie, Slater, Katz & Freeman in Roseland, N.J. Ethicon/Johnson & Johnson is represented by Christy D. Jones and William Gage of Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens & Cannada in Ridgeland, Miss.
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