The healthcare giant was facing $344 million in civil penalties after the state accused J&J of making misleading statements that minimized and concealed mesh health risks - including pain, erosion, mesh migration, chronic infections, and death that were the basis of more than 100,000 defective product lawsuits.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon found J&J committed 153,351 violations of the state Unfair Competition Law and close to 122-thousand violations of the False Advertising Law. The civil penalty for each was $1,250 for violating California’s unfair competition and advertising laws.
The state Department of Justice filed the original suit against Johnson & Johnson in May 2016. On April 11, 2022, the California Fourth Appellate District Court agreed with Attorney General Rob Bonta, concluding the trial court erred in one respect. J&J had $42 million worth of penalties struck from the final amount.
The final tab is more than $302 million, according to the 82-page ruling.
In the non-jury trial held in January 2020, Judge Sturgeon called the company’s behavior regarding its mesh products “grave” and “egregious” in a callous disregard that destroyed women’s sexual, urinary and defecatory functions while causing debilitating pain.
Presiding Justice Judith McConnell of the appeals court said the package inserts “falsified or omitted the full range, severity, duration, and cause of complications associated with Ethicon’s pelvic mesh products, as well as the potential irreversibility and catastrophic consequences.”
The non-jury trial revealed that the company made the potentially harmful statements in instructional brochures and hundreds of thousands of advertisements for nearly 20 years.
The $42 million discount resulted when the Court of Appeal decided there was no evidence of what the sales representatives said directly to doctors in an office setting, a health fair, a medical conference, or directly to patients.
Mesh News Desk has reported that Ethicon, the medical device division of Johnson & Johnson, has lured doctors into using its products with promises of financial rewards, luxury cars, and ski vacations.
J&J’s Ethicon division began selling polypropylene mesh in the late 1990s and at one time sold nearly a dozen mesh devices from its “TVT family” to treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP).
Pelvic mesh was retrofitted from heavyweight Prolene hernia mesh, developed by the company in 1974.
This Decision follows a $117 million settlement with 41 states and the District of Columbia to resolve deceptive advertising claims over pelvic mesh. California was not part of that settlement.
The $302 million judgment represents less than 1% of J&J’s net worth.
The company’s revenue for the 12 months ending March 2022 was $94 billion, a more than 12% increase over the previous year.
J&J is spinning off the Consumer Health division (Aveeno, Listerine, Tylenol, Neutrogena), still considered a steady investment with a 6% increase in annual dividends.
Pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and consumer products are the three key profitable segments.
J&J spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle the company plans to appeal the appeals court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
See: The People v. Johnson & Johnson, California Court of Appeal, fourth appellate District, Division One, No. D077945.
CA Superior Court state v JNJ July 12, 2019 Decision
California AG News Release
Mesh News Desk (MND), Plaintiff’s Expert Outlines J&J’s Push to Market Prosima Pelvic Mesh, September 23, 2015
MND, $117 Million Multistate Settlement with J&J Over Deceptive Mesh Marketing, October 17, 2019
MND, Perry v Ethicon: Sales Rep, Doc in the Dark about Pelvic Mesh Dangers, January 30, 2015