Transvaginal Mesh – Origins and Ongoing Litigation

Joseph O'Neill

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— Updated on August 23, 2021

Kay Van WeyTransvaginal mesh was originally intended to treat women suffering from debilitating conditions like pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. Instead, it has severely injured many of the women it was intended to help. It has caused organ perforations, erosion of vaginal tissues, and infections.

Now it has become one of the largest MDL actions of all time, with nearly 60,000 cases pending in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia under Judge Joseph Goodwin.

According to Chris Hedges, in-house legal nurse consultant for McGowan, Hood and Felder, LLC, the issues experienced by TVM patients are caused by the breakdown of the mesh within the body.

“One of the biggest issues with this particular product is that it erodes over time. Essentially, this is similar to leaving fish line in the daylight for a couple of years. It is made of a product that breaks down with exposure to the indigenous biological conditions inside of a woman’s body.”

The issues caused by TVM products are compounded by the number of women who have received the implants. More than 75,000 procedures are performed in America every year. This has made TVM litigation a unique phenomenon in the mass tort landscape.

Kay Van Wey is a Dallas based personal injury attorney at Van Wey Law. She spoke with us about her experiences working with TVM cases.

Could you give a brief summation of the general issues at hand in these cases, the damages suffered by the plaintiffs, and the origins of the MDL?

The main issue in these cases is that the manufacturers released products that had not been tested in this area of the body. Even after they realized the damage the mesh was causing in women, the manufacturers continued to promote and sell these products to doctors. Women’s work, family, personal, intimate lives have been and continue to be greatly affected by these defective mesh products. Even after all of this litigation is over, the women who have suffered injuries will likely continue to suffer with incontinence issues, prolapse issues, and sexual issues.

Following the $400 million dollar global settlement recently announced by AMS, do you think it is likely that settlements from other mesh manufacturers will occur in the near future?

Yes, we are cautiously optimistic that some of the other manufacturers will offer settlements in the future. Although many of the cases are still being actively litigated, Judge Goodwin has made certain orders in the various MDL’s which have forced the manufacturers to consider settlement as an option. 

“[Judge] Goodwin has said he’ll resort to creative tactics, like grouping similar plaintiffs for trial, to keep the cases from dragging on for decades, as litigation for other mass torts like asbestos and tobacco did.” (Jessica Dye, Reuters) Have you experienced any of these unique tactics firsthand? How have they affected your cases?

Yes – We had two cases chosen in the Boston Scientific discovery pool. As part of this discovery pool, we have conducted case specific discovery. We have included depositions of the plaintiffs, implanting physicians, treating doctors, and experts. As part of Judge Goodwin’s order, we’re working up the cases for trial in January 2015. Judge Goodwin has been very aggressive in moving these cases forward by setting multiple groups of cases for trial. Goodwin is also putting both plaintiff and defense on a short schedule to be “trial ready.”

Are there any major differences between cases leveled against different mesh manufacturers?

There are multiple versions of the mesh. However, they’re essentially all a synthetic material with different pore sizes. Some of the meshes have burned edges. Even though there are some differences in the products, the general legal theories are all the same.

In your experience, how has TVM litigation been different than other medical device MDLs?

The sheer number of consumers affected by transvaginal mesh makes the TVM litigation different than any other medical device I’ve litigated. So many women were implanted with and suffered injuries from this medical device. However, many of these women suffer in silence. They are too embarrassed to talk about the problems that they’ve had as a result of the mesh.

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