Punitive Damages Awarded in Philadelphia Pelvic Mesh Trial
Yesterday after a 2-1/2 week trial in front of Judge Mark Bernstein, a Philadelphia jury awarded plaintiff Patricia Hammons $7 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson. The punitive damages award followed an award of $5.5 million in compensatory damages on Monday bringing the total judgment against J&J to $12.5 million.
In the case, Ms. Hammons, a 65-year old Walmart employee, alleged that she had surgery in 2009 to correct a sagging bladder. Her doctor implanted a Prolift mesh implant made by a subsidiary of J&J in an attempt to correct the problem. Ms. Hammons claimed that the mesh product was defective and caused such excruciating pain during sex that she was no longer able to have intercourse with her boyfriend.
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.
Ms. Hammons’ lead attorney, Shanin Specter, with the Philadelphia law firm of Kline & Specter, P.C., produced evidence at trial that the defendant rushed to bring the pelvic mesh product to market for competitive reasons knowing that the product was defective (causing bunching and erosion injuries to patients), that it had already been associated with pain during sex, and that J&J failed to warn doctors and patients of these facts.
"These verdicts send an important message to Johnson & Johnson that they must stop elevating selling over safety,” said Specter. “A thorough housecleaning is necessary from the bottom to the top of the company."
At this time, there are approximately 44,000 lawsuits against J&J and their Ethicon subsidiary over its Prolift implant and as many as 100,000 claims against all manufacturers of transvaginal mesh products. To date, 16 cases have been tried to verdicts against manufacturers resulting in verdicts totaling almost $250 million.
The case was the first to be decided in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, where hundreds of transvaginal mesh cases remain on the trial docket.