Our readers may remember that earlier this year a jury returned another verdict against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Mentor Worldwide LLC in a Georgia federal court. That case involved a pelvic mesh implant called an ObTape sling. Plaintiff Tessa Taylor was implanted with the ObTape, a type of “bladder sling,” to treat her incontinence in 2004. For the next seven years, she experienced bladder pain, back pain and bladder discomfort, and had trouble urinating. In 2011, after many attempts at diagnosis and treatment, her doctor recommended they remove the ObTape and replace it with another type of bladder sling.
A Georgia federal judge recently upheld that jury’s verdict, which found that the medical device was defectively designed and that Mentor failed to warn about the possibility of injury. The jury initially awarded $4 million in punitive damages, but Florida law required that award to be reduced to $2 million. The jury’s $400,000 compensatory award was upheld, bringing Ms. Taylor’s total award to $2.4 million.
Judge Land praised the jury, who saw and heard the evidence over the course of nine days, and, after deliberation, “render[ed] a verdict that speaks the truth – the truth of that case as they saw and heard it based on their collective wisdom and guided by the law as instructed by the judge.” However, Judge Land had strong words for Mentor. He wrote:
After the jury is dismissed thinking that justice has been done, losing lawyers – well trained in dissecting every comma and spinning every word – mine the written transcript to weave a different story, one that suits their purposes but is often very different than what was actually experienced by that fact-finding jury.
The right to a civil jury trial is guaranteed in the Seventh Amendment. The importance of the jury’s role cannot be understated. Judge Land was absolutely correct that second-guessing the jury’s findings can lead to a world of “mischief.”
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