J&J To Pay Record $35 Million in Product Liability Case
Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, will pay $35 million in a product liability case concerning its Prolift pelvic mesh, used to treat pelvic organ prolapse, a debilitating condition with few options for treatment. Plaintiffs Barbara Kaiser and her husband Anton Kaiser sued the company in March 2012 after Barbara began experiencing pelvic pain allegedly associated with the mesh her physician implanted three years earlier.
The lawsuit accused Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon of concealing commonly known problems with the product, including risk of failure, injury, and high complication rates, as well as “frequent and often debilitating re-operations,” according to the couple’s complaint. Prolift “caused severe and irreversible injuries, conditions, and damage to a significant number of women, including plaintiff.”
The Kaisers claimed, “Defendants have consistently underreported and withheld information about their Prolift’s propensity to fail and cause injury and complications and have misrepresented the efficacy and safety of the products through various means and media, actively and intentionally misleading the medical community, patients, and the public at large. Defendants actively and intentionally misled and continue to mislead the public, including the medical community, health care providers, and patients, into believing their Prolift is safe and effective, leading to the prescription for, and implantation of, their Prolift into plaintiff, Barbara Kaiser, and numerous other women.”
A nine-person jury panel in the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana awarded Barbara $10 million in damages and $25 million in punitive damages. According to court documents, Anton Kaiser was not compensated. In its verdict, the jury found there to be substantial evidence the Defendants were negligent in the design of Prolift and Ethicon deliberately failed to warn patients of the risks to prior to consenting to implant surgery. They found further that Prolift was sold in a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition, placing unnecessary risk on mesh recipients.
The $35 million reward was notably substantial. “This is one of the largest transvaginal mesh verdicts in the country…Ethicon defended an indefensible product and the jury stood up for Barbara Kaiser,” said the couple’s attorney, Thomas Plouff, of Plouff Law, a Chicago-based law firm specializing in medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury cases, product liability, and civil rights violations. “They were asked to send a message to Ethicon to deter future wrongdoing, and they did…We are elated to have won a settlement for a very deserving individual who suffered at the hands of corporate neglect. We look forward to taking on tougher cases in the future through our Plouff Law Offices team.”
Johnson & Johnson has stated it plans to appeal the verdict. Spokesperson Mindy Tinsley said in response to the jury’s decision, “We believe [the verdict] contradicts the evidence that the product was properly designed and that the company appropriately informed surgeons of pertinent complications.” She added, “While we empathize with those who have experienced complications, many women with pelvic mesh see an improvement in their day to day lives. Ethicon stands by, and will continue to defend, our pelvic mesh products in litigation.”