Last month’s $12.5 million verdict for a woman against Johnson & Johnson over its surgically implanted vaginal mesh product has grown by nearly $800,000 following a judge’s recent decision to add delay damages to the result.
The order was handed down by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Mark I. Bernstein, who presided over the trial in which a jury awarded $5.5 million in compensatory damages and $7 million in punitive damages for Patricia Hammons, an Indiana woman who had the device implanted but later suffered excruciating vaginal pain. Despite several corrective surgeries, she was left unable to have sexual intercourse.
In Pennsylvania, delay damages begin to accrue one year after suit was filed and run to the date a verdict is delivered. They are calculated at a rate equal to the prime rate plus one percent.
Shanin Specter, of Kline & Specter, PC, Hammons’ lead attorney in the case, alleged at trial that J&J subsidiary Ethicon, maker of the Gynecare Prolift vaginal mesh device, put a defective product on the market and failed to warn surgeons about its risks. In many cases, the mesh has eroded in patients and in Hammons’ case, Specter told the jury, left “shards” of the plastic-like material adhered to the undersurface of her bladder. She was also left with a shortened vaginal cavity that makes sexual intercourse too painful.
Hammons, now 65, had the device surgically implanted in 2009 to remedy a prolapsed bladder.
Roughly 44,000 cases are pending throughout the country against J&J over the vaginal mesh product, with tens of thousands of additional cases filed against other manufacturers. A handful have so far resulted in large jury verdicts against J&J. After the Hammons trial, Specter told the news media: "These verdicts send an important message to Johnson & Johnson that they must stop elevating selling over safety. A thorough housecleaning is necessary from the bottom to the top of the company."
During the three-week trial Specter had told the jury that J&J knew of the product problems but rushed it to market for competitive reasons. His co-counsel in the Hammons case were Kila Baldwin, also of Kline & Specter, and Adam M. Slater of Mazie Slater Katz and Freeman of Roseland, N.J.