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Lawyers Contend Johnson & Johnson Destroyed or Misplaced Crucial Documents in Vaginal Mesh Lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson officials are being accused of misplacing or even destroying documents related to their vaginal-mesh implants. “Document destruction has severely prejudiced the plaintiffs for the upcoming bellwether trials,” according to the filing. “Defendants should not benefit from the gaps in plaintiffs’ story that defendant created.” Due to the mishandling or destruction of such documents, plaintiff’s lawyers claim that J&J should be barred from seeking to throw out suits because they were filed beyond legal deadlines or using other defenses at trial.

The plaintiffs’ counsel is seeking following:

  • A declaration that the court will issue a “spoliation instruction” to the jury at every  bellwether trial;
  • Striking Ethicon’s learned intermediary defense for every trial;
  • Striking any statute-of-limitations defenses for every trial; and
  • Charging Ethicon for the plaintiffs’ reasonable costs and attorney’s fees associated with the motion.

Officials of J&J’s Ethicon unit, which made Gynecare Prolift implant, lost or disposed of potentially hundreds of thousands of documents over a decade even though they were ordered by executives to preserve them, says the attorneys for women who claim the devices caused their injuries in a court filing in West Virginia Dec. 2.

Last year, the F.D.A. ordered J&J, C.R. Bard Inc. and 31 other vaginal-implant manufacturers to study rates of organ damage and complications linked to implants. Doctors implanted more than 70,000 mesh devices in the U.S. in 2010, threading them through incisions in the vagina to fortify pelvic muscles that failed to support internal organs. Thousands of women say the meshes have eroded and shrunk over time, causing them pain and injuries. Patients have filed suits against J&J, Bard, based in Murray Hill, New Jersey; Endo Health Solutions Inc. of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; and Natick, Massachusetts-based Boston Scientific Corp.

Johnson & Johnson stopped selling lines of vaginal-mesh implants last year after being hit with a several lawsuits over the devices. Still, J&J, the world’s biggest maker of medical products, contends in court filings the Prolift devices are safe and that the company gave adequate warning of any risks associated with the implants.

J&J executives said Ethicon was warned to keep documents related to the development and regulatory approval of vaginal-mesh inserts, Ethicon admitted not everyone complied with the request. Ethicon “admitted that it destroyed all documents” that Renee Selman, J&J unit’s former president, had on her hard drive. Many employees did not understand that they were supposed to preserve documents or how they were to do it,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys said.

Matthew Johnson, a spokesman for Ethicon, said the company had “an appropriate process” for storing documents and that Ethicon turned over millions of papers to plaintiffs’ lawyers. “We have never intentionally destroyed, withheld or failed to produce relevant documents,” he said in an e-mailed statement. He said the plaintiffs weren’t “prejudiced by any isolated instances where documents may have inadvertently not been maintained.”

More than 30,000 vaginal-mesh cases have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin in Charleston for pre-trial information exchanges. Goodwin is to preside over the bellwether federal cases. Currently, Johnson & Johnson, is preparing for the first federal trial regarding its line of vaginal mesh inserts. The first case is February 10th in Charleston, West Virginia. Earlier this year, a state court jury in New Jersey ordered the device maker to pay over eleven million damages to a woman who alleged her ProLift insert caused chronic pain.

If you have been affected by Transvaginal Mesh or Gynecare Prolift  specifically, you have legal rights afforded to you. Contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for a free consultation. We can be reached at (833) 606-DRUG [3784].