A jury heard opening statements last week in the first Federal Court trial involving manufacturer CR Bard, Inc.’s Avaulta transvaginal mesh products. The case of Sisson v. CR Bard, Inc., in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Virginia, is one of approximately 3,600 cases pending against Bard in which women allege that erosion of the mesh products have caused organ damage, made sexual intercourse painful, and caused women to have to undergo additional surgical procedures to remove the mesh products. Most of the cases against Bard have been consolidated before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Goodwin in what is known as the Multidistrict Litigation Court in Charleston, West Virginia for pretrial workup and the exchange of evidence. The Sisson trial was expected to last 2 to 3 weeks. However, on July 10, 2013, Judge Goodwin declared a mistrial because of a witness’ testimony. The Federal Judge stopped the trial in its second day after expert witness Lennox Hoyte, a gynecological expert, testified about the vaginal mesh devices’ marketing. Judge Goodwin had ruled previously that the Plaintiffs could not mention the fact that Bard had withdrawn the products from the market last year. After the witness’ testimony, Bard’s attorney moved for a mistrial. Judge Goodwin stated that it would be difficult for the jury to disregard such testimony and as a result, granted the Defendant’s motion for a mistrial. However, the trial on behalf of Donna Sisson and her husband is expected to begin again soon before a new jury, perhaps as early as July 29, 2013.
Donna Sisson was experiencing problems with control of her bladder, a condition known as stress urinary incontinence (SUI). When her problems became worse, she turned to a specialist who diagnosed her as suffering from pelvic organ prolapse (POP), a condition that can cause urinary incontinence and/or pain, including pain during sexual activity. In 2009, a transvaginal mesh product manufactured by Bard was surgically implanted in Ms. Sisson, purportedly to solve her problem of urinary incontinence. Instead of solving the problem, she began experiencing significant bleeding, pain during sex, bladder spasms, and as a result, had to undergo 2 additional surgeries to remove the mesh device. Ms. Sisson and her husband sued the product manufacturer, CR Bard, Inc., claiming that Bard knew about the problems associated with these mesh products but failed to warn doctors and consumers. Plaintiffs’ lead counsel, Henry G. Garrard, told the Federal Court jury last week that Bard officials knew that these transvaginal mesh devices were made of a material that was unsuitable for human implantation, and they covered up that flaw from doctors and women who were being surgically implanted with the products. Garrard told jurors that Bard made these implants, which were designed to shore up pelvic muscles, out of a type of plastic that carried a warning saying it should not be permanently implanted in humans. Bard’s lawyers have denied that these vaginal mesh devices were defective.
The litigation involving these transvaginal mesh products which were designed to treat SUI and POP has expanded and accelerated after the United States Food & Drug Administration issued a safety warning in 2011 stating that “Serious complications associated with surgical mesh for transvaginal repair of POP are not rare.” Other manufacturers of vaginal mesh products, such as Ethicon, a division of Johnson & Johnson, Boston Scientific Corporation, American Medical Systems, Inc., Coloplast Corporation, and Cook Medical, Inc. are facing lawsuits claiming that their vaginal mesh devices are defective. In addition to the cases pending in the MDL Court before Judge Goodwin in Charleston, West Virginia, there are thousands more cases pending in State Courts across the country, 2 of which resulted in jury verdicts for the Plaintiffs within the past year. The outcomes of the Sisson case and other cases scheduled for trial in the MDL Court could put pressure on these manufacturers to try to settle the pending cases.
The defective transvaginal mesh attorneys at Suthers & Harper are presently representing women and, in some cases, their spouses, in similar lawsuits pending against various manufacturers of transvaginal mesh products, and are working closely with members of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee in the Multi-District Litigation. As experienced attorneys in this unique field of litigation, Suthers & Harper understands not only the physical pain caused by defective mesh products, but also the emotional and financial hardship that can result.