UPDATE: In February of 2023, the United States Supreme Court allowed the $302 million dollar verdict to stand, refusing to hear Johnson & Johnson’s appeal.
UPDATE: In April 2022, the California 4th District Court of Appeal reduced the verdict by $42 million dollars, to $302 million.
The Johnson and Johnson subsidiary Ethicon has been ordered to pay $343.99 million dollars for deceptively marketing vaginal mesh products in the state of California. San Diego County Superior Court judge Eddie Sturgeon ruled that the deceptive marketing was intended to deceive doctors and tens of thousands patients about the risks and dangers of the vaginal mesh products.
California’s suit charged Johnson & Johnson with violating the state’s false advertising and unfair competition laws. The California Attorney General asked for a fine of $800 million. In the lawsuit, the California Justice Department said that its years-long-investigation had shown that Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit failed to inform patients and doctors of the possible severe complications and risks of using the mesh products, and misrepresented the severity and frequency of those risks. The trial last two months; Judge Sturgeon’s 88 page verdict was issued four months later.
The court found that Johnson & Johnson had deceptively marketed two products: Tension-free Vaginal Tape, or TVT, which was first sold in 1998 to treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI), and the Prolift, sold beginning in 2005 to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP). These meshes were implanted in women via incisions in the vagina, and after implantation the mesh often eroded, causing a host of problems including pain, infection, vaginal bleeding or discharge, urinary problems, severe pelvic or groin pain, pain during intercourse, and even organ perforation from mesh eroding into surrounding tissue.
Ethicon discontinued four mesh products for vaginal use in 2012. Ethicon did not recall vaginal mesh products that were already sold or implanted, and some of their mesh products were relabeled for abdominal implantation only. The FDA banned all vaginal mesh products in 2019.
California is the first state to go to trial alleging deceptive marketing of vaginal mesh implants by J&J’s Ethicon. Other states with pending litigation against Ethicon are Kentucky, Mississippi, Oregon, and West Virginia. Forty-two other states had already settled their claims against Ethicon for a total of $117 million dollars, and the state of Washington settled for $9.9 million.
Johnson & Johnson sold more than 470,000 pelvic mesh products nationally between 2008 and 2004. More than 30,000 were sold in California. Around the world, more than 2 million women have had these vaginal mesh implants. In the United States, more than 35,000 lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson for defective vaginal mesh damages and injuries.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued this statement on the verdict: “Johnson & Johnson intentionally concealed the risks of its pelvic mesh implant devices. It robbed women and their doctors of their ability to make informed decisions about whether to permanently implant the products in patients’ bodies,” he said. “Today we achieved justice for the women and families forever scarred by Johnson & Johnson’s dishonesty.”
Ethicon and Johnson and Johnson have announced plans to appeal.
The case is California v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 37-2016-00017229-CU-MC-CTL, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego.
If you have implanted mesh for any medical reason and are having any symptoms connected with the implant you should contact your doctor immediately. Do not delay seeking medical attention if you have any symptoms you believe are related to your mesh implant.
To discuss your legal options regarding your mesh implant, call the vaginal mesh lawyers at Thornton Law Firm at 888-491-9726 to talk with Attorney Marilyn McGoldrick. You can also tell us your story online for a confidential, free evaluation of your claim. All legal claims have strict time limits for filing so call now if you believe you have a case.