Marilyn Tennissen Apr. 22, 2014, 2:40pm

A Texas jury recently ordered that Johnson & Johnson and its Ethicon unit must pay $1.2 million to a former nurse who was injured by one of the manufacturer’s mesh slings used to treat incontinence.

Plaintiff Linda Batiste filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company when the TVT-O mesh sling implanted in her body to treat stress urinary incontinence eroded, causing severe pelvic pain and damage. Jurors in the state court last week in Dallas ruled in favor of 64-year-old Batiste and concluded the device manufactured by the company’s Ethicon unit was defective, Bloomberg reported.

Trial began March 17 in Judge Ken Molberg's Dallas County 95th District Court. She was awarded $1.2 million for her damages plus interest on April 3.

The jury found that the TVT-O mesh made by J&J/Ethicon contained a design defect and that a safer alternative design would have prevented or significantly reduced the risk of injury without substantially impairing the products’ utility and was economically and technologically feasible.

The plaintiff was represented by Tim Goss of Freese & Goss PLLC  in Dallas, Richard Freese of Freese & Goss PLLC in Birmingham, Ala., Matthews & Associates in Houston and Thomas Cartnell of Wagstaff & Cartmell in Kansas City, Mo.

According to a press release from Freese & Goss, "the jury was shown evidence that Johnson & Johnson knew it had a safer, better sling product, yet the company continued to make and market the inferior mesh that was used on Ms. Batiste."

"J & J’s own documents showed the company recognized that it had developed a better product – laser as opposed to machine cut mesh – but did not take the inferior product off the market," the press release claims. "Inside emails showed Ethicon executives and marketers worried that removing the inferior product from the market meant the company would lose seven years of safety data – a valuable marketing tool – which it had accumulated for its machine cut mesh. Removing the product (which is still marketed today) could also show the company to be making a tacit admission that the machine cut mesh was inferior and even defective and should have been removed earlier."

This is the first verdict against J&J for its vaginal mesh sling products, and the company plans to appeal, according to Bloomberg.

J&J’s Ethicon division still faces more than 12,000 federal lawsuits. Experts expect more women will come forward in state and federal courts.

Mesh manufacturers already paid millions to settle a number of claims. Coloplast was the most recent to pay out compensation to women implanted with mesh. The Danish company settled a number of cases for $16 million.

The nonprofit group Corporate Action Network is urging the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether J&J deliberately destroyed documents that could be used as evidence in transvaginal mesh trials.

“Hundreds of thousands of women continue to suffer ongoing, severe harm [from J&J’s pelvic mesh implants]. I hope Johnson & Johnson is held accountable for their failure to warn,” network spokeswoman Levana Layendecker told The Associated Press.

In February, U.S. District Judge Cheryl Eifert ruled that J&J destroyed thousands of documents, but did not say that it was done intentionally.

Case No. DC-12-14350


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