Four Test Trials against Ethicon’s Hernia Mesh
As of 2021, there are more than 3,000 pending hernia mesh lawsuits filed in 2021 against Ethicon’s Physiomesh products. Richard Story, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the suit, has identified four cases meant for early bellwether trials.
The Ethicon hernia mesh lawsuit involves allegations claiming that Ethicon sold defective and unreasonably dangerous products. These products allegedly caused the plaintiffs to experience complications such as adhesions, perforations, hernia recurrence, erosion, severe abdominal pain, and other injuries.
On more than one occasion, these complications often led to patients undergoing additional surgeries so doctors could remove the hernia mesh from their bodies.
The Alleged Dangers of Ethicon’s Hernia Mesh
Ethicon Physiomesh was a flexible, multi-layered composite hernia mesh product made by Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary. The company introduced the product to the market in 2010 but removed it six years later after numerous complaints regarding the complications caused by the hernia mesh.
The Ethicon hernia mesh included a layer of polypropylene plastic. Polypropylene offers a mix of strength and flexibility, so it was thought to be useful for repairing damage caused by hernias.
However, physicians have recently found several occasions of the human immune system rejecting the plastic material whenever doctors implant it into the body.
Furthermore, polypropylene could degrade and break free of the hernia mesh’s natural tissue component, causing hernia mesh failure.
When the hernia mesh fails, it could cause infection or internal bleeding. Failure could also cause potentially fatal blockages if the mesh breaks free from the repaired hernia and falls into the lower abdomen.
The Four Cases Set for Early Test Trials
Given the similarities of the cases in fact and law, the court has centralized the federal lawsuits for pretrial proceedings as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). Through this, a small group of claims will go before juries as early test trials.
This process helps avoid overloading the court with thousands of different yet repetitive expert and scientific witness testimonies while streamlining other administrative court procedures. These test trials will gauge how the juries would respond to specific evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated in the different Ethicon hernia mesh lawsuit cases.
Judge Richard Story issued a Practice and Procedure Order on September 11th, which identified four cases the parties selected for immediate trial work-up. The four cases the parties chose include lawsuits filed by James Bovian, Diane and Jim Crumbley, Jeffrey Smith, and Danielle Guffy.
Set Trial Dates
The plaintiffs assigned the lawsuit filed by the Crumbleys the first trial date, which the court expects to start on January 25th, 2021. The final pretrial conference will take place on January 14th, 2021. The court expects the trial to last between two to three weeks.
Once the court has heard the second case, the third trial will begin on June 7th, 2021, and will involve a consolidated presentation of the last remaining bellwether cases.
The Crumbley Case
Jim Crumbley underwent surgery at a hospital in Georgia in July 2014. Doctors implanted the Ethicon Physiomesh to repair an incisional ventral hernia.
Crumbley needed to undergo another hernia repair surgery in December 2016, after the Ethicon hernia mesh failed. The plaintiff also claims that he has had to endure ongoing and possibly lasting injuries because of the failed implant.
What Would the Outcome of The Four Test Trials Mean for Other Plaintiffs?
Though the outcomes of these four cases will not be binding on the other plaintiffs, the lawyers involved in the litigation will closely watch the proceedings to weigh the relative weaknesses and strengths of their respective claims.
Many people also expect the results to significantly influence the settlements Ethicon might offer to prevent thousands of individual claims from going to trial nationwide in the following years.
Though it has been a few years since Ethicon removed the hernia mesh from the market, the size of the litigation is likely to increase as more individuals continue to experience complications resulting from the Physiomesh’s failure.
Should Johnson & Johnson, along with its Ethicon unit, fail to resolve the litigation or settle any claims, each pending individual claim may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court for a separate trial date.