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Pelvic mesh class action: Johnson & Johnson reaches record settlement

IFM_Johnson & Johnson
In March 2021, the full court of the federal court dismissed an appeal from Johnson & Johnson Medical and Ethicon

Johnson & Johnson Group, a maker of pelvic mesh implants, has settled two class actions for USD 300 million after thousands of women worldwide complained of problems with the mesh products, including chronic pain, uncomfortable sex, and incontinence.

This marks the largest product liability class action settlement in Australian history and is pending approval from the federal court.

The net-like meshes, which can take the shape of a “sling,” “tape,” “ribbon,” “mesh,” or “hammock,” are intended to treat pelvic organ prolapse by providing weak pelvic organs with long-term support and to repair damaged tissue.

Johnson & Johnson was accused of failing to adequately evaluate the devices and downplaying their risk to both surgeons and patients in the class actions brought in Australia by Shine Lawyers.

Mesh exposure and erosion, which occur when the mesh pierces the vaginal wall or slashes through internal tissue, vaginal scarring, fistula formation, painful sex, and pelvic, back, and leg problems are among the issues that women experienced. Some of these issues can develop years after surgery and can be challenging to resolve.

The first class action was filed in federal court on October 15, 2012, and it took seven months, from July 2017 to February 2018, to reach a verdict.

A historic ruling in favour of the 1,350 women who participated in the class action who had mesh and tape products implanted to address pelvic prolapse or stress urinary incontinence was handed down in November 2019.

In March 2021, the full court of the federal court dismissed an appeal from Johnson & Johnson Medical and Ethicon.

The principal judge’s finding that the mesh device’s marketing was likely to mislead or deceive was accepted by the full court.

The court dismissed Johnson & Johnson’s legal team’s arguments that manufacturers are exempt from liability with regard to hazards or problems that should be known to doctors or that surgeons and doctors can find out about on their own and warn of.

The court determined that even if not all medical products can be risk-free, patients could expect those products to carry adequate warnings about potential hazards, even if those dangers are unlikely to occur.

The high court rejected Johnson & Johnson Medical’s request for extraordinary leave to appeal in November 2021.

Women who received their implants on or after July 4, 2017, and who were unable to join the first class action, filed the second class action in April 2021.

According to Rebecca Jancauskas of Shine Lawyers, the payment will aid in meeting the women’s ongoing medical needs.

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