Legal Newsline

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Just before trial, Washington AG Ferguson's Ethicon case against Johnson & Johnson settles


By John Sammon | Apr 22, 2019


SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) – A lawsuit launched by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson against Johnson & Johnson for a pelvic mesh implant sold by its subsidiary Ethicon has been settled out of court, according to a report from Courtroom View Network (CVN).

The agreement is worth $9.9 million, Ferguson's office said. The trial was to have begun on April 22.

The pelvic mesh implant manufactured by Ethicon is supposed to support a prolapsed or sagging bladder. The case would have featured attorneys for the state in King County Superior Court arguing that the implants sold to women violated the state’s consumer protection laws and caused medical problems or extinguished sexual function.

Nearly 14,000 Ethicon implants were sold to women in Washington state, according to Ferguson. He was the first AG to file this kind of suit.

Ethicon is part of the medical devices arm of Johnson & Johnson, a New Jersey-based conglomerate well known recently for court battles over its talcum baby power, which in recent years has generated lawsuits filed by women who claimed the powder was tainted with asbestos, causing them to develop ovarian cancer. Men and women also allege it caused mesothelioma.

The implant device is a clear plastic-looking polypropylene mesh with connecting arms. Critics of the device say it is too large and causes the body to form scar tissue in efforts to reject it and that it also constricts, causing intense pain.

More than 100,000 lawsuits filed by women against the manufacturers of pelvic mesh implant devices have been launched in courts across the country.

The lawsuits have alleged that makers of pelvic mesh devices continued to manufacture, market and sell the products, while also continuing to inadequately warn, label, instruct and disseminate information regarding the product, both prior to and after the marketing and sale of the products implanted into the plaintiffs.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana last year awarded a woman $10 million in damages and $25 million in punitive damages after a jury said Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon had misled the public about the risks of the mesh implant. The verdict said the companies failed to establish proper safety procedures for removal of the mesh in case of failure and failed to perform adequate research and pre-testing of the device.

Allegations in that case included claims that Johnson & Johnson provided incomplete, insufficient and misleading training and information on the implantation of the devices to doctors who would install them, to increase sales of the mesh devices.

Former California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a lawsuit against Ethicon that is set to go to trial in July in San Diego and could result in a greater compensation award as more mesh implant devices have been sold in that state, approximately 42,000 between 2008 and 2014, a CVN report noted.

The case launched by Washington's AG, if held, had been projected to last for five weeks.

The Washington Attorney General's Office had planned to use its own in-house attorneys. The representation of J&J and Ethicon was to be handled by attorneys from O’Melveny & Meyers based in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office, Los Angeles-based Covington & Burling, and Calfo Eakes & Ostrovsky in Seattle.

Judge Suzanne Parisien of the Washington State Superior Court for King County would have presided.

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Organizations in this Story

Ethicon IncKing CountyWashington State Attorney GeneralJohnson & Johnson