An Appellate Court Ruling and a Jury Verdict Highlight Continued Progress in Mesh Litigation
Surgical mesh products have been used in many ways and for many years to support organs and bind tissues on a temporary or permanent basis. Two common applications are hernia mesh materials used to close and support abdominal and inguinal hernias that can develop in the muscular walls of the abdomen and pelvic (or transvaginal) mesh procedures used to remedy conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse — common in older women who have given birth to children. Although often very successful, these medical products and procedures are sometimes problematic, particularly when the mesh materials either react badly with the surrounding tissues or when they don’t remain properly anchored in place. Some particularly dangerous materials and applications have resulted in numerous lawsuits against medical device manufacturers over the last decade. Because some surgical mesh products are manufactured and intended to be permanently implanted, problems — and resulting mesh litigation — may arise only many years down the road.
The Nature of Surgical Mesh and Associated Problems
Two significant issues have arisen with regard to hernia mesh and pelvic mesh products:
- Biocompatibility — how the body and mesh material react to each other; and
- Physician instruction and guidance — how the manufacturers instruct physicians to use their products and for what conditions.
Some mesh products are “resorbable,” intended to gradually dissolve into the body, while other types are intended to be permanently implanted devices. With both varieties, biocompatibility describes how the body acts upon the mesh material and what responses the mesh material induces in the patient’s tissues. A desirable result will trigger scar tissue (fibrosis) development between the mesh and anchoring tissues so that the mesh will remain firmly in place, but with a minimal amount of short-term and long-term inflammatory reaction that can produce significant pain and lead to infection. At the same time, a desirable result will also involve a minimum of change to the mesh material itself, so that it does not either become too rigid and uncomfortable for the patient or too flexible and fails to provide the support it’s intended to give.
Instructions and guidance for physicians includes both the “how to’s” of actually implanting the surgical mesh materials, as well an adequate evaluation of the inherent risks versus the seriousness of the condition being treated. Someone, for example, with relatively minor hernia or pelvic organ prolapse problems, might not be the best candidate for mesh implantation if the surgical risks far exceed the benefits they are likely to receive.
Recent Hernia Mesh Litigation Case Results in Nearly $5 Million Jury Verdict
One recent example of the ongoing wave of mesh litigation cases involved C.R. Bard, Inc., longtime maker of a wide variety of medical devices and tools, including the well-known “Foley catheter.” The company has also produced several surgical mesh products, including the “Ventralex Hernia Patch,” which was the subject of a recent jury trial in Rhode Island.
The plaintiff in that trial had undergone hernia surgery that involved the implantation of one of these mesh patches, followed by eight years in which he claimed the patch “twisted and bore into his bowel.” The surgery to remove the patch turned into a nightmare, in which the surgeons discovered the man’s bowel had actually stuck to the mesh material. The plaintiff ended up having ten surgical procedures over a 40-day period to remove the mesh and try to repair the damage.
The plaintiff’s lawyers argued that C.R. Bard had earlier downgraded the quality of material put into the mesh product, instead using a cheaper plastic that the lawyers claimed was unsafe and improper for use in humans. The jury found this argument persuasive and awarded the plaintiff $4.8 million for his injuries.
Appellate Court Ruling Revives Mesh Litigation Case in Kentucky
Another major manufacturer of surgical mesh products is the Ethicon division of Johnson & Johnson. One of their pelvic mesh products is the subject of a lawsuit brought in federal district court in Kentucky. The plaintiff had two of Ethicon’s mesh products — a “Prolift” posterior mesh device and a separate mesh sling — implanted more than a decade ago in an effort to deal with her urinary incontinence under stress. The unfortunate woman’s incontinence actually worsened after the devices were implanted, and she began to experience severe pain, abdominal swelling, and “unbearable pain” during intercourse.
When the plaintiff sued Ethicon, the company argued in federal district court that the consent forms she had signed prior to surgery were sufficient to relieve them of any liability for her subsequent, severe problems. The district court found this persuasive and granted summary judgment for Ethicon. The plaintiff’s attorneys appealed this decision, and in a ruling this year (2022) a panel of appellate court judges reversed the summary adjudication and returned the matter to the trial court. The argument the appellate court found most significant rested upon testimony from the plaintiff’s treating physician — the surgeon who had actually implanted the mesh devices into her — in which the doctor stated that he had not been given sufficient information by Ethicon in order to properly advise his patient of the serious risks of the procedure. The appellate court determined there was sufficient evidence supporting the plaintiff’s claims of negligence and design defect against Ethicon for the matter to proceed to trial.
View this video from BBC News describing common complications from implanted mesh devices:
Sacramento Physiomesh Hernia Attorney
Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I’m a Sacramento Physiomesh Hernia Attorney. While surgical mesh products such as hernia mesh and pelvic mesh kits have been used successfully to help people, others have had very poor outcomes after the implantation of these medical devices. Often the patient receives inadequate information to weigh the risks of the product — and as in the case above, sometimes even surgeons are given inadequate information to advise their patients — while in other situations, the problematic nature of certain materials used in the mesh products only become evident after they’ve been inside people for years. If you or a member of your family has been seriously injured by a defective medical product such as hernia mesh or pelvic mesh devices, please contact us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. You can also reach us through our online contact form.
Image by Tung Nguyen from Pixabay
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