Boston Scientific, a Massachusetts-based medical device company, was ordered to pay $73 million after a jury found that it was liable for leaving a woman in severe pain following a vaginal mesh implant. The award was comprised of $23 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.
The company's Obtryx Transobturator Mid-Urethral Sling System is a polypropylene mesh that is designed to treat stress urinary incontinence. The plaintiff, Martha Salazar, experienced complications within just a few months of having the device implanted, including mesh erosion, chronic pain, dyspareunia, and irreversible nerve damage to the femoral and obturator nerve. Ms. Salazar was forced to undergo four mesh removal surgeries and is scheduled for more surgeries in the future.
The Dallas jury returned with a verdict the same day as it began deliberations, finding that Boston Scientific's sling suffered from a faulty design. The jury also found that company officials failed to properly warn patients and doctors about the device's health risks, and that its handling of the slings amounted to gross negligence.
Before the device was implanted, Ms. Salazar was employed for 20 years managing real estate in the Dallas metro area and had been an exemplary employee who was in line for a promotion. After her injuries from the mesh, she was unable to perform her work duties and lost her job.
Ms. Salazar's attorney, Dave Matthews, presented an August 2000 e-mail during trail from Alex Robbins, a Boston Scientific executive, where he told salespeople to ignore a company-funded study raising questions about the sling's safety. Robbins wrote in the email, "I certainly wouldn't hand this out to any physicians."
Before the Salazar case, Boston Scientific won two cases involving the device. The company currently faces more than 12,000 lawsuits with women contending its vaginal mesh implants and slings erode within the body.
Previously, the US Food and Drug Administration ordered Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson, and more than 30 other vaginal-implant makers in 2012 to study rates of organ damage and complications linked to these products. Many of these companies are presently in talks to settle cases over the devices. Among them, Endo International has agreed to pay $830 million to resolve some 20,000 lawsuits alleging that its vaginal-mesh inserts eroded in some women and left them incontinent and in pain.
Written by James P. Nevin