A verdict of $13.5 million was returned against Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon Inc. last month in Philadelphia. The company’s transvaginal mesh implant was defective and left a woman in so much pain and discomfort that she can no longer have sexual intercourse. The jury awarded Sharon Carlino $3.5 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. Also, $250,000 was awarded to Carlino’s husband for loss of consortium.
Mrs. Carlino was implanted with Ethicon’s TVT transvaginal mesh device in 2005 to treat stress urinary incontinence. Two years later, she returned to her doctor complaining of sharp pains in her vagina. It was discovered that the mesh had become exposed and the doctor ordered surgical removal of a portion of the implant. Three years later, another portion of her mesh had to be surgically removed due to continued discomfort. Despite repeated surgeries to remove the device, Mrs. Carlino says the pain and discomfort remain.
It was proved at trial that Ethicon’s TVT mesh had key flaws that left Mrs. Carlino in constant pain. First, the pores in the mesh were too small and prevented tissue from properly growing through the mesh. The mesh also created a build-up of scar tissue, which caused the vagina to contract and the mesh also changed shape after implantation and eroded, frayed or curled. Because the mesh is cut by a machine rather than a laser, pieces fall off the edges and become embedded in the vaginal tissue. Finally, over time, the mesh can degrade inside the body. All of these issues prevent doctors from removing all the mesh, and leads to chronic pain and disability.
This is the second damage award Ethicon has been hit with from a consolidated group of nearly 180 lawsuits in a mass tort program in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. The first trial, which involved the company’s Prolift transvaginal mesh, resulted in a $12.5 million verdict last December. A third trial was scheduled to begin on Feb. 22, but the case was settled.
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