PHILADELPHIA -- A jury today awarded $7 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson for an Indiana woman injured by a surgically implanted vaginal mesh. The plaintiffs claimed the product was defective and that J&J knew and failed to warn doctors about its dangers.
The verdict followed a $5.5 million compensatory award on Monday by the same Philadelphia Common Pleas jury for Patricia Hammons, 65, who had the Prolift implant in 2009 to support her prolapsed bladder. Because of erosion of the plastic mesh she suffered excruciating pain that prevents her from having sexual intercourse.
"These verdicts send an important message to Johnson & Johnson that they must stop elevating selling over safety,” said plaintiff’s attorney Shanin Specter, of Philadelphia-based Kline & Specter, PC “A thorough housecleaning is necessary from the bottom to the top of the company."
Some 44,000 lawsuits have been filed against J&J over its vaginal mesh product, which was produced by its Ethicon subsidiary.
Hammons underwent corrective surgery but the mesh was bunched up on the undersurface of her bladder and could not be entirely removed. What followed were multiple surgeries that also left her with a shortened vaginal cavity.
Specter argued during the three-week trial that J&J was aware of problems with its vaginal mesh -- particularly with bunching and erosion and injuries to patients -- but rushed to get the product to market for competitive reasons.
The case was the first to be decided in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, where hundreds of cases remain on the trial docket.
Counsel for the plaintiff were Specter, Kila Baldwin, also of Kline & Specter, and Adam M. Slater of Mazie Slater Katz and Freeman of Roseland, N.J.