"The first case we filed was because our client's statute of limitations was going to expire on November 18, so this is not a situation where we tried to handpick the best case to go forward first," Miller explains. "Rather, we had no choice but to file it first, otherwise our client wouldn't have any recourse." (Yes, there are statutes of limitations, so if you have suffered complications from transvaginal mesh or transvaginal tape, see an attorney sooner than later.)
Miller currently has 18 cases across Canada, and each claim will be filed in that person's home province. So far, lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson. "I haven't seen a client with Avaulta mesh erosion yet, but that doesn't mean Bard won't be included," says Miller. If claims against Bard (the maker of Avaulta TVM) in the US are any indicator, Bard will have lawsuits filed against them in Canada—and soon.
The litigation in Canada is just starting and Miller is hopeful that attorneys are going to help these women. One of his clients (name withheld on request) has been suffering from transvaginal mesh erosion for seven years. "During all this time she hasn't had sex and she is in incredible pain," says Miller, adding that she can't find a doctor who will listen to her complaints, which seems to be a common problem with women suffering from TVM erosion.
"I don't know why the doctors are not acknowledging problems with the transvaginal mesh," says Miller, "because they are not the target of these lawsuits. Perhaps they are doctors who get funding from the pharmaceutical companies, but I think the main reason is that they just don't believe what they are hearing and don't know what to do."
US and Canada doctors are attempting to remove the mesh but so far there hasn't been an incident—that Miller knows—of a 100 percent success rate, i.e., removing all the mesh. It is Miller's understanding that the mesh is attached to bone and ligament when it is implanted—doctors can't just tear off this transvaginal tape. "You get this image in your mind that it is something like masking tape, but clearly it isn't anything like tape—it doesn't come off."
Many of these women are in dire situations: Miller has several clients who are now on full disability. To qualify for Canada Pension Plan disability means that you will never work again in your life. Women in their 40s will never work again; they are living on Oxycontin, Percoset, Neurontin to treat pain for damaged nerves. Imagine being on these drugs for the rest of your life, not to mention liver and stomach damage associated with these pain killers.
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Miller has coached his clients on what to expect in court, what they are getting into with litigation. "Their most personal medical details will be put on the table, but they are all brave women," he says. "They all believe the manufacturers—Johnson & Johnson, American Medical Scientific or Bard—is at fault, although this has not been proven in court yet.
"Without knowing each other all of these women relayed to me the same message: 'This cannot happen to anyone else, and no amount of money can give back what we lost.' They also want to get this message out to the manufacturers: 'Before you put a device on the market, do the proper testing.'"