States sue J&J Transvaginal Mesh Maker

J&J hit with State Lawsuits over Pelvic Mesh

The states of Ethicon_Transvaginal_MeshCalifornia and Washington have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for false advertising and deceptive marketing of surgical mesh for women. The lawsuits say J&J failed to properly inform patients and doctors of the potential severity of mesh complications.

Washington Woman Blows Whistle

According to Mesh News Desk, the Washington state lawsuit has its roots in 2012 when a Washington woman wrote her attorney general to report that women were not warned about the dangers of mesh, that there was no informed consent, and thousands of women like her were duped into believing that what J&J called a  “minimally invasive” procedure could not end in a lifetime of pain. (Washington Mesh Complaint.)

J&J Concealed Mesh Risks

Attorneys general Kamala D. Harris of California and Bob Ferguson of Washington say Johnson & Johnson knowingly concealed the risks associated with their pelvic mesh products. The mesh in question is designed to treat common conditions in women such as stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP). The plastic mesh material can cause serious complications including loss of sexual function, chronic pain, infection, permanent urinary or defecatory dysfunction, a devastating impact on quality of life.

The attorneys general launched the lawsuits against J&J and its subsidiary Ethicon Inc. in California and Washington state courts. California alleges violations of the state’s unfair competition and false advertising laws. Washington state charges “tens of thousands of violations” of the state’s consumer protection laws.

Deceptive Practice Charges

California and Washington are both seeking injunctive relief and monetary penalties potentially in the millions of dollars. Harris wrote that her action is meant, “to ensure that J&J stops its deceptive practices.”

Ms. Harris said, “Johnson & Johnson put millions of women at risk of severe health problems by failing to provide critical information to doctors and patients about its surgical mesh products. Johnson & Johnson’s deception denied women the ability to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.”

Mr. Ferguson said in a statement May 24, 2016 that complications can crop up years after surgery and are in many cases irreversible, while mesh removal mesh can be nearly impossible.

Horrific Injuries, Doctors duped

Mr. Ferguson said, “It’s difficult to put into words the horrific injuries and pain many women are still suffering as a result of Johnson & Johnson’s deception. They believed they were making informed medical decisions, but that was impossible when Johnson & Johnson was spreading inaccurate information about its products’ risks, essentially duping doctors into using their own patients as clinical trials.”

J&J Responds

A J&J spokeswoman told Law360 this week that J&J plans to “vigorously defend itself against the allegations.” J&J said in the statement that both states’ lawsuits were “unjustified.”

The J&J statement further said, “The evidence will show that Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the marketing of our pelvic mesh products. The use of implantable mesh is often the preferred option to treat certain female pelvic conditions, including pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence, and is backed by years of clinical research.”

J&J Lawsuit Verdicts Upheld

The states’ lawsuits continue a long series of litigation against J&J over its pelvic mesh products.

In some of the latest developments, in March 2016 a New Jersey appeals court upheld a $11.1 million jury award for a woman who claimed Ethicon’s pelvic mesh caused debilitating nerve pain. The appeals court ruled that ample evidence presented at trial showed that better warnings of the product’s risks might have prevented her injuries.

In April 2016, a Philadelphia jury returned a $13.5 million verdict against J&J and Ethicon in another case brought by a woman who claimed J&J’s mesh implant was defective and that it reduced her to nearly constant pain, discomfort, and sexual dysfunction. J&J appealed that verdict, as it has appealed every pelvic mesh verdict  rendered against it.

States sue J&J Transvaginal Mesh Maker

Both Ms. Harris and Mr. Ferguson said May 24 that in addition to false advertising and deceptive marketing, J&J misrepresented the severity and frequency of common complications, and failed to disclose that its surgical meshes “presented risks not present in alternative treatment options.”

Ms. Harris said that J&J had sold more than 42,000 pelvic mesh devices in California from 2008- 2014. She said the company faces more than 35,000 personal injury lawsuits across the country..

Mr. Ferguson said J&J had sold 12,000 mesh products in Washington state during roughly that same time period. He said he would seek the maximum $2,000 penalty for each violation of Washington’s consumer protection laws.

Law360

Law360 reports the state of California is represented by Kamala D. Harris, Judith A. Fiorentini, Jinsook Ohta, Sanna Singer and Michelle Burkart of the state Attorney General’s Office.

Washington state is represented by Robert W. Ferguson, Elizabeth J. Erwin, Andrea M. Alegrett and Leilani N. Fisher of the state Attorney General’s Office.

The cases are California v. Johnson & Johnson et al., in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego, and Washington v. Johnson & Johnson et al., in the King County Superior Court in the State of Washington.

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