Nov. 21 (UPI) — A federal court in Australia found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Ethicon liable Thursday in class-action lawsuit after a seven-year legal battle over flawed vaginal mesh implants.
More than 1,000 women registered to take part in the class action beginning in October 2012, with the trial beginning in federal court in 2017 involving 700 Australian patients.
The verdict means those harmed could be compensated, but that amount will not be finalized until next year, ABC Radio News reported. Johnson & Johnson is considering whether to appeal the verdict.
Three women who led the class action were heard from in federal court, including Kathryn Gill, Diane Dawson and Ann Sanders. Gill described the pain she experienced from the implant as “so bad she struggles to breathe.” Dawson referred to the same as “excruciating.” And Sanders said it felt like “there was a blade in her vagina.”
The vaginal mesh devices were implanted to treat pelvic prolapse, urinary incontinence or other complications of child birth, but women said they suffered emotionally, mentally and physically with severe, debilitating and chronic pain, and have been unable to have intercourse.
In many cases, the mesh eroded internally, causing infections, multiple complications, and was nearly impossible to completely remove, testimony showed.
Defendants had suggested that complications were rare, but Justice Anna Katzmann rejected that suggestion.
“I was satisfied that a number of the pleaded complications are not uncommon, and some in fact are common,” she said.
The judge said that the company and its product development arm Ethicon were “negligent,” downplaying the risks of the product, which was not tested properly, while rushing the product to market.
“The devices were not tested properly and those selling them knew they did not have sufficient data to show they were safe,” Katzmann said.
One of the claimants, Julie Davis, said that the verdict was a step in the right direction.
Ethicon defended its practices, saying in a statement, “Ethicon believes that the company acted ethically and responsibly in the research, development and supply of these products.”
Around 8,000 women in Australia and 100,000 worldwide have been estimated to have used the implants.
Last month, Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon reached a settlement of about $117 million in the United States for alleged misleading marketing of the vaginal mesh implants.