City woman wins lawsuit against J&J

Jury awards $120M to Susan McFarland over injuries from vaginal mesh device

PHILADELPHIA — A jury has handed down a $120 million verdict — $20 million in compensatory and $100 million in punitive damages — against Johnson & Johnson on behalf of an Altoona woman who was injured by the company’s vaginal mesh device.

The verdict is believed to be the largest to date in a vaginal mesh case and followed a string of other large verdicts against J&J and its Ethicon subsidiary. It was the seventh time a Philadelphia jury decided against J&J in a mesh case, with awards now totaling $266 million.

The verdict, delivered late Wednesday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, was for Susan McFarland, now 68, who had the mesh implanted in 2008 to treat urinary incontinence, but the plastic product eroded into her vagina, causing pain. Revision surgery the following year failed to help.

As a result, McFarland suffers pelvic pain, groin pain and dyspareunia, or an inability to have sexual intercourse without pain. She also suffers chronic urinary tract infections and still has the original urinary incontinence the mesh was supposed to have treated.

The product in question was Ethicon’s TVT-O. While other vaginal mesh devices have been removed from the market, J&J continues to sell the TVT-O device and surgeons continue to implant it in women across the country and worldwide. Thousands of lawsuits against various vaginal mesh devices are pending nationwide.

“The jury’s message to Johnson & Johnson is: ‘Take this product off the market for the health and safety of America’s women,'” said Tracie Palmer, lead counsel, who, with Braden Lepisto, both of Kline & Specter PC, represented McFarland.

Kline & Specter attorneys won the previous six Philadelphia verdicts in vaginal mesh cases, including one for $57.1 million and, most recently, a $41 million verdict in February.

The McFarland trial lasted three weeks. A jury took about three hours to deliver the verdict, which included a finding that J&J’s Ethicon was negligent in its design of the TVT-O. The trial was the second in the McFarland case; the first trial ended in a hung jury last September.

McFarland isn’t speaking publicly about the award at this time, Palmer said Thursday when contacted by the Mirror. “We are giving her and her family time to process this.”

Palmer called McFarland “extremely brave. Taking the stand in a trial is never easy. And Susan had to talk about the most intimate part of her life.”

The verdict, Palmer said, “is a recognition of her injuries and how severely it has impacted her life.” McFarland had “been diligent” in seeking answers from physicians as to what was causing her symptoms.

It wasn’t until McFarland saw commercials about other previously injured women that she had, Palmer said, “what she describes as a ‘light bulb moment.’ The story we hear time and again from women and from Susan is that they feel they aren’t being heard and that they are invisible. … Now, these women no longer feel crazy. Their pain and symptoms are real.”

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