Carlino et al. v. Ethicon, Inc., et al. (Pa. Comm. Pls. Ct., Philadelphia County)
Product: Gynemesh TVT
Jury Award: $13,500,000.00 ($3,250,000.00 in compensatory damages; $250,000.00 to husband for loss of consortium; $10,000,000.00 in punitive damages)
Date of Jury Verdict: February 10, 2016
This case was brought by Sharon Carlino and her husband, Charles Carlino. The couple sued Ethicon, Inc. and parent company Johnson & Johnson on several claims, the main one being that Ethicon failed to warn Ms. Carlino and her doctors of the transvaginal mesh product’s risks and potential dangers.
Ms. Carlino suffered from incontinence and had a hysterectomy in 2005. In that procedure she had the Gynemesh TVT implanted. By 2007, according to court filings, she suffered from abnormal pain and her surgeons attempted removal of the mesh. Ms. Carlino still felt serious pain after the attempted removal surgery and had to undergo a third surgery. Ms. Carlino alleged in her complaint that she suffered from pain, incontinence, dyspareunia (pain during intercourse), infections, scarring, and other health problems.
Importantly, Ms. Carlino’s surgeon testified at trial that if he had been adequately warned of the risks of the product by Ethicon, he would not have implanted the transvaginal mesh in Ms. Carlino. This was important testimony, for many reasons, but the key reason is that it destroys the defense of the learned intermediary doctrine. The learned intermediary doctrine holds that a manufacturer cannot be liable for negligence if it provides all necessary information to a learned intermediary (like a surgeon), who then has the duty to communicate with the patient about the benefits and risks of implanting the device.
The Carlinos alleged that Ethicon withheld key information on the product’s capacity to fail and cause serious injury, and that it continued to market the transvaginal mesh even though the companies knew of the high failure rate and the unreasonably high risk of injury to women.
After a two-week trial, the jury awarded a healthy $3,250,000.00 to Ms. Carlino for compensatory damages (money awarded to a plaintiff to compensate for actual damages, injury, and other losses). The jury also awarded Mr. Carlino $250,000.00 for loss consortium, and finally, the jury awarded a robust $10,000,000.00 in punitive damages. Juries rarely award punitive damages, and when they do it usually means they found egregious conduct on the part of the defendants.
Undoubtedly, Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson will appeal this verdict. But once again, a jury has spoken and sent a clear signal that the companies who manufactured and marketed transvaginal mesh have unreasonably hurt too many women simply to maximize corporate profits. For more information on other transvaginal mesh verdicts and on transvaginal mesh generally, click here.