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Manchester woman awarded $57 million in vaginal mesh lawsuit

David Weissman
York Dispatch
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A 51-year-old Manchester woman was awarded more than $57 million for injuries she suffered from vaginal mesh devices.

The devices, created and marketed by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon Inc., were implanted into Ella Ebaugh in 2007 to treat her stress urinary incontinence, according to her attorney, Kila Baldwin.

Baldwin said the devices, called TVT and TVT-Secur, were effective in treating that minor condition, but years later, the mesh eroded into Ebaugh's urethra, which required three separate surgeries to remove.

Ebaugh's injuries included extensive scarring to her urethra, intrinsic sphincter deficiency, chronic urinary tract infections, chronic pelvic pain and dyspareunia, or chronic pain during sex, according to the lawsuit, filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

The lawsuit claimed that Johnson & Johnson intentionally manipulated available information regarding issues with the devices and withheld information about issues and injuries from doctors.

The device was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but didn't go through the FDA's Premarket Approval process, Baldwin said.

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Under federal law, companies are immune from lawsuits related to devices that make it through that process.

The verdict, handed down Thursday, Sept. 7, is the fifth successful lawsuit filed in Philadelphia related to these devices, according to Baldwin, and Ebaugh's award is the largest of those five. 

The award included $7.1 million in compensatory and $50 million punitive damages. Though Ebaugh has been unable to return to work because of her injuries, Baldwin said they did not seek economic damages.

Prior to her injuries, Ebaugh was a clerical worker at a Friendly's distribution center, Baldwin added.

More than 100 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson related to its mesh devices are still pending in Philadelphia courts, according to Baldwin.

Ethicon spokeswoman Kristen Wallace wrote in an email that the company plans to appeal the court's verdict.

"We believe the evidence showed Ethicon’s TVT and TVT-Secur devices were properly designed, Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the research, development and marketing of the products, and the products were not the cause of the plaintiff’s continuing medical problems," Wallace wrote in a statement.

“We empathize with women suffering from stress urinary incontinence, which can be a serious and debilitating condition," she continued. "There are various treatment choices for women with this condition seeking to improve their quality of life, including surgical treatment with implantable mesh, which is backed by years of clinical research and is considered by most doctors to be the gold standard treatment."

Ebaugh was not immediately available for comment.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.