A jury in Bakersfield, CA, has awarded $5 million to a plaintiff in the first major transvaginal mesh lawsuit.
Rochelle Rottenstein is a product liability attorney and the principal of Rottenstein Law Group (New York City).
Christine Scott had been treated with Bard Medical’s Avaulta mesh to treat a bladder problem. After the mesh was implanted, Scott underwent eight surgeries to treat complications stemming from the medical device.
The jury award, which was announced in late July, followed a four-year legal battle. In addition to the $5 million awarded to Scott, an additional $500,000 was awarded to her husband (the couple alleged in the suit that the device had ruined their sex life). Of the $5.5 million sum, C.R. Bard, the parent company of Bard Medical, is liable for $3.6 million; Tillakarasi Kannappan the physician who surgically implanted the mesh in 2008, is responsible for the remainder. Bard Medical stopped selling the Avaulta mesh in the United States on July 1, 2012, after FDA asked the company for new clinical trial data related to the product.
The Scott v. Kannappan case is a landmark, says Rochelle Rottenstein, principal of the Rottenstein Law Group (New York City).
“It's a significant amount awarded by a jury in a case against one of the five mesh manufacturers facing hundreds of vaginal-mesh-injury lawsuits right now," she explains.
The Scotts aren't the first people in the United States to recover compensation for vaginal mesh injuries. Claimants in litigation in Georgia settled with Mentor for injuries resulting from the company’s OB Tape mesh product. “That was a few years ago, and the amounts of the settlements remain confidential,” Rottenstein says.
Nearly 140 cases naming C.R. Bard as a defendant are pending in New Jersey state court. There are more than 600 cases against companies including Boston Scientific, American Medical Systems, and Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon division in the mesh multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Multidistrict litigation is also underway in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, and mass tort cases have been filed against C.R. Bard and Gynecare in New Jersey.
“The California jury award bodes well for victims of all brands of vaginal mesh, but—since Scott was
harmed by Bard’s Avaulta mesh product—claimants in the lawsuits against Bard should be particularly encouraged by the award,” Rottenstein says.
A federal case, which Rottenstein describes as a bellwether trial, is slated to begin February 5, 2013. “Courts use bellwether cases when there is a big group of plaintiffs suing based on the same theory or claim,” she says. “These representative cases go to trial and the results help the plaintiffs in similar suits gauge how their cases will play out.”
To date, FDA has received almost 4000 reports of adverse events linked to the surgical mesh. In 2008, the agency released a warning to healthcare professionals outlining complications linked to the use of surgical mesh in treating pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. The agency issued a second warning July 13, 2011, as a result of a spike in reports of serious adverse events associated with the mesh.
Brian Buntz is the editor-at-large at UBM Canon's medical group. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.