Pelvic mesh implant maker Johnson & Johnson Group has reached a $300 million settlement in two class actions after thousands of women worldwide reported complications from mesh products including chronic pain, painful intercourse and incontinence.
It marks the largest settlement in a product liability class action in Australian history and is subject to federal court approval.
Mesh nets, which come in a variety of shapes, including a ‘strap’, ‘band’, ‘ribbon’, ‘net’ and ‘hammock’, aim to treat pelvic organ prolapse by providing permanent support. weakened pelvic organs. , and to repair damaged tissue.
Shine Lawyers led the Australian class action and claimed Johnson & Johnson failed to properly test the devices and minimize their risk to both surgeons and patients. Women have suffered complications including mesh exposure and erosion – when the mesh passes through the vaginal wall or cuts into internal tissue – vaginal scarring, fistula formation, painful sex and pelvic, back and leg pain. Some of these complications can occur years after surgery and can be difficult to treat.
The first class action was filed in federal court on October 15, 2012 and was litigated for seven months between July 2017 and February 2018. In November 2019, a landmark ruling was handed down in favor of the 1,350 women who were part of the class action and who had introduced mesh and tape products to treat pelvic prolapse or stress urinary incontinence.
Johnson & Johnson Medical and Ethicon appealed to the full court of federal court, which dismissed the appeal in March 2021.
The full court agreed with the lead judge’s finding that the trading of network equipment was likely to deceive or mislead.
The court rejected arguments by lawyers representing Johnson & Johnson that manufacturers are exempt from liability with respect to risks or complications that should be known to doctors, or that doctors and surgeons are able to detect and warn of on their own. The court found that while medical goods cannot all be risk-free, the patient should expect those devices to carry appropriate warnings about risks even if those risks are rare.
In November 2021, the high court rejected Johnson & Johnson Medical’s request for special leave to appeal.
The second class action was filed in April 2021 on behalf of women who received their implants on or after July 4, 2017 and were not eligible to join the first class action.
Rebecca Jancauskas of Shine Lawyers said the deal will help support the women’s ongoing treatment needs.
“We welcome this settlement that ends the litigation,” she said. “If the federal court approves the settlement, our focus will shift to the important task of distributing the settlement to class members.”
Other sling and mesh manufacturers, including Astora Women’s Health and Boston Scientific, have also been the subject of class actions in Australia. In July, Shine Lawyers reached a $105 million settlement with Boston Scientific.
Women implanted with one or more of the devices in Australia by 30 June 2020 and who suffered one or more complications as a result may be eligible for compensation.
Similar group actions involving thousands of women are also underway in the UK and the US. In 2018, then Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt issued a national apology on behalf of the government to women affected by the transvaginal mesh scandal, after a Senate inquiry into transvaginal mesh procedures found many women experienced great hardship in finding doctors who believed that the symptoms they were experiencing were the result of the mesh and that the symptoms were as severe as they described.