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Jury Asked To Award $9.5M Damages In J&J Pelvic Mesh Case – Law360

Butler Snow’s William M. Gage was recently mentioned in the Law360 article Jury Asked To Award $9.5M Damages In J&J Pelvic Mesh Case about the case’s verdict:

A Texas woman on Friday asked jurors to find Johnson & Johnson‘s Prosima pelvic mesh device was defectively designed and that the company failed to warn doctors about the device’s risks, and to award $9.5 million in actual damages against J&J, in the first trial involving the device.


In the Dallas County District Court case, plaintiff Carol Cavness also asked for a sizeable punitive damages award that would send J&J and its Ethicon Inc. unit a message about the Prosima device, how the company researched and marketed the device and what the company did after scientific studies showed the device carried serious complications and the risk of lifelong injury. Cavness had the Prosima device implanted in 2012 to treat pelvic organ prolapse and says she has suffered chronic pain, depression and anxiety and other medical problems related to the mesh.


“This is an epidemic,” said David Matthews of Matthews & Associates, an attorney for Cavness. “These meshes are health care disasters. Does anyone really think this product was pulled from the market because of sales? This product was pulled because it’s dangerous.”


Matthews told jurors they should consider internal J&J documents showing that before Prosima launched, consultants the company paid as “key opinion leaders” said the Prosima device was no more effective than a surgical procedure used for decades that treated pelvic organ prolapse with natural tissue instead of mesh, but carried with it significant risks and that it would be “reckless” to launch it.


Cavness asked jurors to award $6 million for future pain and suffering, $2 million for past physical pain and mental anguish, $935,000 in future lost wages because the side effects of the surgery have made it impossible for her to continue working as an airplane mechanic, $570,000 in future medical care and $61,000 in lost wages. She also asked jurors to award punitive damages large enough to send a message to J&J to stop gambling with patient safety.

Matthews also told jurors J&J was trying to portray Cavness as “damaged goods,” and that her injuries don’t matter.


J&J focused its defense throughout trial and in closings not on the Prosima device itself but on the theory Cavness suffers from pelvic floor disorder and that all her injuries are attributable to a disorder that was likely caused by a muscle tear, not the mesh. It said there’s no evidence Cavness had any mesh remaining in her body after an explant procedure three months after the implant.


“Mesh is not, was not and will not be the cause of her pain,” said William Gage of Butler Snow LLP, an attorney for J&J. “There is no proximate cause.”


Gage told jurors Cavness tore a muscle in her pelvic floor at work — the same day that she noticed the pelvic organ prolapse that was treated with the Prosima implant days later — and that the pain she has suffered since then was never about the mesh. He suggested the doctors who have been treating Cavness had a kind of tunnel vision focused so sharply on the mesh implant as a potential source of her pain that they didn’t consider alternate causes.


Gage said doctors, including the doctor that implanted the Prosima in Cavness, had plentiful warning about the potential side effects of Prosima. And he said no safer alternative design existed at the time the product was launched.


“It’s the best thing we’ve got at the time,” Gage said. “Yes, it’s not perfect and people are going to get hurt, hopefully infrequently. This is medicine; it’s not perfection.”

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