Federal Mesh Trial Against J&J Opens in West Virginia

Jane Akre
August 25, 2014
byrd courthouse

This coverage is provided in conjunction with We Are Mesh Survivors, a coalition of synthetic vaginal mesh implant survivors united to demand justice for those who have suffered and to demand that existing products be pulled from the market until their safety can be demonstrated.

Jo Huskey was in a Charleston, West Virginia courtroom today where her legal team will try to prove to a jury of nine that the transvaginal mesh she was implanted with in February 2011 was defective.

Jo Huskey

Jo Huskey

Monday were opening arguments for her legal team as well as lawyers representing Ethicon and its parent company Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

The 54-year-old had a Prolene polypropylene (PP) medical device called a TVT-O (transvaginal tape obturator) implanted as a treatment for stress urinary incontinence (SUI). She looked thin and tense in the courtroom. Her husband Allan sat next to her with his arm around her much of the day.

Ed Wallace, attorney for Jo Huskey

Ed Wallace, attorney for Jo Huskey

Ed Wallace (Wexler Wallace) told the jury of five women and two men that a preponderance of the evidence (more probably true than not true) will show that the mesh was defective and that that was something J&J understood even before it put the TVT-O on the market in 2003, despite the fact it was designed “to leave in forever.”

Wallace had a calm and soothing delivery and carefully explained complex scientific concepts to the jurors. Wallace told the courtroom that medical device manufacturers are required to put patient safety first. Secondly, they must make sure their product is reasonably safe for its intended use and third, they must provide adequate warnings of the risk associated with that device to the end user, in this case the doctors who treat incontinence.

“Ethicon failed to follow these safety principles and knew the results could be life-altering,” he said.

Instead the company rushed the TVT-O to market in nine months with no clinical trials to assure human safety. "Ethicon decided to launch first and worry about problems later," said Wallace.

Huskey suffers from chronic pelvic pain, dyspareunia (painful sex) and even though she has had one partial removal, the mesh remains behind.

The case number is 2:12-cv-05201.

Besides Wexler Wallace, Motley Rice and Fidelma Fitzpatrick are representing Mrs. Huskey.

Christy Jones, Butler Snow for J&J

Christy Jones, Butler Snow for J&J

Christy Jones (Butler Snow) and Dave Thomas will represent Ethicon (Johnson & Johnson) as they did in the last Ethicon case tried in this court.

Jones, an experienced litigator, told the jurors the mesh sling cured Mrs. Huskey of incontinence and she did not complain of any pelvic pain until five months after her implant surgery. She called the TVT-O the standard that has "become the doctors’ choice to treat SUI.”

Laying the groundwork for the case ahead she indicated the Prolene mesh (J&J's proprietary name for PP) is the same thing that had been used for decades in sutures and that over 60 studies assure its safety.

Jones said the evidence will show Mrs. Huskey experienced groin pain in advance of her mesh implant.

Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, Charleston, WV

Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, Charleston, WV

Judge Joseph Goodwin is overseeing the Huskey trial and about 65,000 other similar cases by seven manufacturers. J&J has the largest number of cases filed (22,000).

Estelle Tasz outside federal court

Estelle Tasz outside federal court

During a morning break with the judge and jury out of the room, a mesh-injured woman in the courtroom, Estelle Tasz, approached Ms. Huskey. At first Huskey didn't know who she was but Estelle told her she too was mesh injured. Huskey asked her to approach closer. They quietly and privately spoke about their injuries and had a long, emotional hug as the entire courtroom looked on.

Both began softly crying, as did Jo's husband, Allen.

Estelle gave Jo a small beaded bracelet, which she put on her wrist.

Mesh News Desk and Corporate Action Network will be following the Huskey trial for its entire duration.

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