Bard settles second bellwether mesh case after plaintiff verdict in first trial
By Courtney L. Davenport
Following a plaintiff verdict in the first transvaginal mesh bellwether trial in a federal MDL against C.R. Bard, Inc., the device maker settled the second bellwether case shortly after jury selection. About 4,400 suits are pending in that MDL, and about 25,400 federal suits are pending in MDLs against other mesh manufacturers. (In re C.R. Bard, Inc., Pelvic Repair Sys. Prods. Liab. Litig., MDL No. 2187 (S.D. W. Va. Aug. 23, 2013).)
Last month, a jury awarded Donna Cisson and her husband $2 million, including $1.75 million in punitive damages, against Bard after transvaginal mesh implanted to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP) eroded, causing bleeding, pain during intercourse, and bladder spasms and requiring additional surgeries. The Cissons alleged Bard defectively designed the mesh and failed to warn doctors when it learned of the risks.
Less than two weeks later, Bard settled with Wanda Queen and her husband for an undisclosed amount. Queen’s specific injuries were not disclosed in the complaint, but attorneys said that despite six corrective surgeries, her injuries are permanent.
Harry Bell of Charleston, W. Va., coliaison counsel in the MDLs, said the Cisson verdict may have prompted Bard to settle with the Queens because Queen’s case was even more egregious. But he does not know what impact the positive resolutions will have on the two remaining bellwether suits or the other MDL plaintiffs.
“From the perspective of the manufacturer, how’s it going to look to the public to have two adverse verdicts back to back and with the verdict amounts increasing? They made the decision they couldn’t take that risk,” he said. “Whether Bard makes the decision to settle [the others], one never knows. Bard has to be considering settlement considering the cases it is losing.”
Transvaginal mesh is surgically implanted in the vagina or abdomen to treat POP—in which the bladder, bowel, or other pelvic organs protrude into the vagina—and stress urinary incontinence. But shortly after it became popular in the late 2000s—in 2010 alone, mesh was implanted in 300,000 women—the FDA started receiving reports of serious injury when the mesh eroded, scraping tissue and protruding into the vagina or other organs, causing chronic pain, incontinence, infection, pain during intercourse, and other problems. Sufferers often require multiple surgeries to remove all of it. In 2011, the FDA warned that serious complications are “not rare” and advised that transvaginal mesh should not be used to treat POP, because it had not proved to be more effective than safer alternatives.
Thousands of mesh recipients and their families sued Bard; Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, Inc.; American Medical Systems, Inc.; Boston Scientific Corp.; Coloplast Corp.; and Cook Medical, Inc. The suits allege the manufacturers did not test the defectively designed mesh before putting it on the market, nor did they properly train physicians. Federal MDLs were established against each defendant. State lawsuits are also pending against many of them, and at least two plaintiffs have obtained jury verdicts.
In July 2012, a California state court jury awarded Christine Scott—who suffers fecal incontinence and chronic pain and cannot have sexual relations after mesh eroded into her colon and vagina—and her husband $3.61 million against Bard. (Scott v. C.R. Bard, Inc., No. S-1500-CV-266034 (Cal., Kern Co. Super. July 24, 2012).) Earlier this year, a New Jersey court jury awarded Linda Gross and her husband $11.11 million against Ethicon. Gross underwent 18 surgeries to remove eroded mesh and permanently suffers such severe pain in her legs and pelvis that she cannot sit comfortably, be active for more than a few minutes, or have sexual intercourse. (Gross v. Ethicon, Inc., No. Atla-L-6966-10 (N.J., Atlantic Co. Super. Feb. 25, 2013).)
Bard asked that the court stay the other bellwether trials or certify an interlocutory appeal of an order in Cisson that excluded evidence of the FDA 510(k) device-approval process and the FDA’s decision not to recall Bard’s mesh devices. The judge has denied the request, holding that “I remain unconvinced that Bard is likely to succeed on the merits of any appeal related to the 510(k) issue” and that Bard will not be irreparably injured by waiting for the outcome of the remaining bellwether trials, the first of which is set to begin Oct. 8.