More than 80,000 transvaginal mesh cases have been filed since 2010, making up over 25% of all civil cases in the United States. As if the sheer number of cases wasn’t enough, there are seven different defendants and at least nine allegedly defective products included in the litigation. Seven separate multidistrict litigations (MDLs) were formed to consolidate the cases, giving shape to what could possibly be the most complicated set of MDLs in history. These are separate litigations with separate rulings, but when a large number of similar cases are moving forward, a ruling for one can easily affect the outcomes of the others.
Last month, a ruling was overturned in Johnson & Johnson v. Batiste, a mesh case that initially awarded $1.2 million to the plaintiff. The case was heard in a Texas appellate court where it was decided that in order for the plaintiff to have a case, she needed to have been able to prove not only that the mesh she was implanted with was defective, but also that it was the defective mesh that led to the injuries she sustained. The court also conceded that the device in question, the TVT-O pelvic mesh, can cause complications that the plaintiff suffered from, but that product liability law doesn’t guarantee products will be free of risk.
This ruling in Texas has the potential to change the way the courts look at these pelvic mesh cases across the board. Because the plaintiff failed to prove the device caused her injuries, subsequent cases could follow the same trend, leading to less valuable settlements. Attorneys may find they now need to screen their cases more closely, given that they will most likely be met with a fight over causation in every case going forward.
This one ruling doesn’t give defendants a free opportunity to say that every plaintiff faces a huge challenge when it comes to proving causation, though. It may change the way attorneys approach the courtroom, but it is not an impossible standard to overcome. A handful of cases were settled in favor of the women who were implanted with the mesh in the past several years. C.R. Bard, American Medical Systems, Boston Scientific and Coloplast have all settled cases.
Both plaintiffs and defendants have seen victories in these MDLs, so we can’t use this ruling in Texas to broadly predict the future of these mesh cases. Who can say if the previous rulings in favor of the plaintiffs would have the same results in light of this new judgement? We can’t be too sure.
At this point, the case in Texas may end up providing more structure to these MDLs, but it doesn’t grant any huge advantages to either side.