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Surgical Mesh Lawsuit Nets $2.16 Million for Pen Argyl Plaintiff

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Philadelphia, PAPharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has just lost its fourth surgical mesh lawsuit after a jury in Philadelphia just this past Friday returned a verdict of $2.16 million against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its subsidiary Ethicon Women’s Health and Urology (Ethicon). The fourth loss for the defendants in as many trials signals, say pundits, a trend in lawsuits alleging surgical mesh complications.

The surgical mesh lawsuit, brought in 2013 by plaintiff Sharon Beltz, is part of the pelvic mesh mass tort in Philadelphia.

Plaintiff Beltz, who hails from Pen Argyl PA., was treated for Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) with Ethicon’s Gynecare Prolift pelvic mesh a year after the product was introduced in 2006. However, she soon experienced unnamed complications akin to surgical mesh side effects suffered by others (Ethicon’s Prolift product was removed from the market seven years after it was introduced to the market, in 2012). Attempts to remove the allegedly problematic mesh failed.

Beltz’ surgical mesh complications attorney notes that due to the failure to successfully remove the mesh, Beltz is expected to be facing ongoing pelvic discomfort. According to court records, the plaintiff’s harms “are thus permanent. She may elect to undergo further pain injections, resection of the mesh, or start taking pain medications regularly, but these options at best will only mitigate her symptoms. She has to live the remainder of her life with constant pelvic pain, a sensation her bladder is pulling, urinary incontinence and retention, lower flank pain, urinary tract infections, and severe pain with sex that lingers days after she has intercourse.

“She will be at risk for exposure of the mesh in her vagina and erosion of the mesh into her bladder, urethra, or other organs for the remainder of her life.”

In April, a plaintiff from New Jersey was awarded $20 million – and the previous two trials against Ethicon and J&J combined for awards totaling $26 million. At $2.16 million, the Beltz award is the lowest thus far – however legal representatives for the plaintiff suggest such a low award is a bit of an anomaly.

There were no punitive damages granted in the Beltz trial. What’s more, the 12-member jury did not find the Prolift mesh to be defective and did not conclude that Ethicon failed to warn both the plaintiff and her doctor about the risks associated with the Prolift product, and the potential for surgical mesh side effects.

And yet the jury found that with the Ethicon Prolift product, the risks outweighed the benefits. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves medical devices based on the premise that while there are always risks involved, the benefits must outweigh the risks for the intended indication, and for the patients involved.

In this case, the jury found that the risks were higher, while at the same time noting the pelvic mesh did not, in the jury’s view, fail to perform as safely as a typical consumer might expect. This appearance of incongruity originates from Tincher v. Omega Flex, a case tried by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Jurisprudence stemming from that case establishes two ways to assess product liability according to the laws of the state of Pennsylvania.

It was not clear if Beltz would appeal. The verdict was delivered May 26, 2017. The surgical mesh complications lawsuit is Beltz v. Ethicon Women’s Health and Urology et al., Case No. 130603835, in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

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