California judge orders Johnson & Johnson to pay $344 million in pelvic mesh claims

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On Thursday, January 30th, a judge in San Diego, California, ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $344 million to plaintiffs in a case of false and deceptive marketing of their pelvic mesh products. These products are by tens of thousands of women in the state. 

The lawsuit was another blow in a long line of claims filed against the company over the use of their pelvic mesh products. The pelvic mesh is designed for use in supporting weakened pelvic muscles, often used during cesarean section and hernia surgeries.

Superior court Judge Eddie C. Sturgeon ruled that Johnson & Johnson was aware of the potential risks of their pelvic mesh before releasing the product to the public. The court further believed they concealed these risks when marketing their products to doctors and patients as safe.

In the 88 page ruling, Judge Sturgeon stated that he decided that Johnson & Johnson “marketed the benefits of its mesh products without fully and truthfully disclosing the accompanying risks and complications,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Mindy Tinsley said the company plans to appeal the ruling alleging the State of California did not provide adequate evidence. Johnson & Johnson says “Ethicon responsibly communicated the risks and benefits of its transvaginal mesh products to doctors and patients,” and “The decision disregards the Company’s full compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laws on medical device communications and the appropriateness of its actions,” according to Barron’s.

Ethicon is the name of the Johnson & Johnson medical device subsidiary that sold the pelvic mesh.

Women who have used this particular mesh have had a series of medical problems, including chronic pain, infections and bleeding, among others.

Between 2008 and 2014, Johnson & Johnson has sold almost 500,000 pelvic mesh products in the USA, with 30,000 of those being to people in California. Additionally, more than two million women have used the product worldwide.

In October of 2019, Johnson & Johnson agreed to another settlement of $117 million in New Jersey over claims of defective mesh with 41 states and the District of Columbia, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Johnson & Johnson continues to face numerous product liability lawsuits over a range of issues regarding several products. As of October 2019, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Johnson and Johnson faced 19,800 product liability cases for the pelvic mesh. Also, they met approximately 100,000 product liability suits in total, not counting lawsuits for the opioid crisis, according to Barron’s.

In February 2020, another lawsuit in New Jersey had a jury award, plaintiffs, $750 million in damages to women over claims that their talc-based baby powder was tainted with asbestos causing ovarian cancer in the women. The judge later reduced the judgment to $186 million. In testimony by CEO Alex Gorsky, he stated that he had denied a link between the talc and cancer because internal reports led him to believe it. This claim goes in contrast to claims by a special report released by Reuters in December alleging the company has known for decades.

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