Dickson v Ethicon Depo is Set Over Mother's Mesh Death

Jane Akre
October 1, 2018

Mary Dickson

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, October 1, 2018~ Mary Dickson is set to have her deposition taken Tuesday. She is trying to keep her mother's wrongful death, defective product case against Johnson & Johnson alive, despite the hurdles.

She is facing off with Johnson & Johnson without a lawyer.

Mesh News Desk has written about Mary Dickson here and here. Her deposition is set for Tuesday, October 2, in Lewisburg, West Virginia beginning at 1 pm. Correspondence has come from Susan Robinson, with Thomas Combs, a law firm representing Johnson & Johnson, here.

Mary is operating Pro Se (without an attorney) because she cannot find anyone to represent her in her wrongful death, defective product case concerning her mother, Vada Mae Smith. Two law firms dropped her case. She says it is because she insisted they add the second mesh implant to the complaint.

Marys’ digging into medical records found a TVT-O (obturator) was put on top of the original TVT (tension-free vaginal tape) by a West Virginia doctor.

Mary interviewed thirty law firms but the response was the same. It would cost too much to take it forward, they don’t want to work in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) court in Charleston, or “we don’t know anything about these cases.”

The answer became clear when one of the law firms involved in the mesh mass tort was honest with her.

Lawyers who hoped to take part in the Master Settlement Agreement with Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon, its medical device division, had agreed to take no more TVT or TVT-O cases. The law firms would not be able to settle their inventory if they refused to agree to the conditions imposed by J&J.

Vada Mae Smith

TVT-O and TVT are still sold by Johnson & Johnson and the medical societies, financially beholden to them, still dub them the Gold Standard.

Unfortunately for Mary’s case, Vada Mae Smith had both.

She cannot undergo a revision surgery, that might make her eligible for a settlement, because Vada died two years ago of massive infections that could no longer be treated.


As settlements came into view in this mass tort, it was established that the number of mesh removals would be the criteria that would be used to put her in a “Tier” of injury. The more removals, the potentially higher her Tier and settlement.

As a result, mesh-in-place cases (not removed or revised) are the least desirable.

The judge has dismissed (PTO #293) thousands of mesh-in-place cases without prejudice, meaning they can be refiled providing the woman has a mesh removal within the next five years.

Judge Goodwin

Early 2012, The Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) saw so many pelvic mesh cases being filed, that it allowed them to be consolidated into multidistrict litigation in federal court in Charleston, West Virginia. The Honorable Joseph Robert Goodwin, then age 70, presided.

At its height, the MDL swelled to 104,749 defective product cases filed in West Virginia, with more filed in individual state courts, in state courts in New Jersey and California, and globally with product liability cases filed in Australia, Canada and the UK.

The majority of them name Johnson & Johnson and its family of TVT products.

In its SEC filing, J&J admits to fighting 55,000 such cases around the world. Boston Scientific, AMS, C.R. Bard, Coloplast, Cook and Neomedic round out the MDL.


TVT-O from beckenbodenzentrummuenster.de

Transvaginal mesh is also called a “sling” by many doctors.

In Vadas' case, Dr. Michael Lassere, then at Virginia Columbia Alleghany Regional Hospital, in Low Moore, Virginia called it a band-aid that would stop her incontinence. She was implanted her with a TVT (tension-free vaginal tape) on August 17, 2001.

Mary found medical records showing the TVT Blue System AA was implanted 70 days before it received the Food and Drug Administration's 510(k) clearance for market.

A second mesh, a TVT-O (obturator) was implanted in Vada by Dr. Joseph Moshy from Lewisburg, WV, on September 27, 2006.

MND has chronicled the litany of complications after her mesh implants that include chronic pain, urinary tract infections, rectal bleeding, gastritis, dizziness and a return of incontinence. Blood was found in her urine and she had MRSA.

Known as the mystery patient by every doctor she saw, no one could find the source of her bleeding or her high white blood cell count. Her implanted meshes were never found.

Eventually Vada’s multiple infections became resistant to antibiotics. Doctors could no longer give her blood transfusions because her blood type had changed so dramatically.

She died September 13, 2016. The cause of death was interstitial cystitis, chronic, with multi-drug resistant bacteria leading to multi-system failure. The bladder was three times its normal size.

Her autopsy shows portions of her bladder are “deeply pigmented and it is irritated from bacterial infection and or colonization. This process took years to reach this extent of anatomic abnormality.”

At the end of her life, there was no code for the serious infections Vada suffered. The treating physician had to add Parkinsons' disease and chronic kidney disease to her list of ailments so she could enter hospice. An autopsy showed Vada didn’t suffer from either.


Mary and husband, Rick

Mary will be accompanied to her deposition by her nephew and husband but she admits she feels overwhelmed.

“I’ve never felt so alone in my life. I cant understand why anyone would sign that agreement telling you who to take as clients. Everybody slammed the door in my face,” she says.

“I know they are going to say your mother was a sick woman but that does not give you the right to implant her with an investigational device you might have waited 10 weeks to implant if you say she was so sick. After all of the things she was treated her for, her organs turned out healthy in the autopsy, except the bladder. That’s the only reason he could find she died.”

This morning Mary received a pile of papers from J&J, among them naming Dr. Sexton from Duke University as their medical expert.

J&J has asked her to bring thousands of documents to her deposition. The company already has the autopsy report. Mary says J&J had a pathologist at Vada’s autopsy. The company sent the bladder samples, filled with scar tissue surrounding the mesh, off to to a lab to be analyzed.

Autopsy photo: bladder w. blue mesh

I want all of you reading this, to protect those you love, from allowing polypropylene, the penny piece of plastic, to ever be implanted in your body, or anyone’s body, without knowing how deadly it can be. J&J is not your baby’s friend. They are no ones' friend. They have preyed on women and children, and continue to refuse to accept responsibility, or even apologize. They never will. Money is the only word people listen to. There is no $ amount, that can fix this. It must be the voices of those of us who still live.”



MND, Daughter Fighting Late Mother’s Pelvic Mesh Case, November 27, 2017

MND, West Virginia Woman Hopes to go it Alone in Mesh Case Against J&J, April 24, 2018

Pre-Trial Order #293 concerning mesh-in-place

Southern District of West Virginia

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