By Dave Warner and Ransdell Pierson
Feb 28 A New Jersey jury Thursday ordered
Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary to pay $7.76 million
in punitive damages to a South Dakota nurse who claimed she was
harmed by the company's vaginal mesh.
Together with earlier compensatory damages, the decision
means J&J and its Ethicon subsidiary would be responsible for
paying Linda Gross, 47, of Watertown, South Dakota, some $11.1
J&J said in a statement that it plans to appeal the decision
and that the punitive damages were unsupported by the evidence.
The product, before being taken off the U.S. market last
year, was used to treat pelvic organ collapse, a condition for
which Gross was treated in July 2006.
The Atlantic City case is the first of about 1,800 lawsuits
against J&J in New Jersey, the company's home state. In
addition, there are 11,000 other claims pending against several
other manufacturers in a federal case in West Virginia,
according to Florida attorney Bryan Aylstock.
"Linda Gross cannot turn back the clock and make her misery
and pain disappear," her attorney Adam Slater said after the
verdict, adding that the jury decided that J&J and its Ethicon
unit "should be severely punished financially."
The lawsuit, in Atlantic City Superior Court, was brought by
Gross in November 2008. It alleged that the Gyncare Prolift
vaginal mesh was not safe and that J&J and Ethicon were liable
for, among other things, defective design, manufacture, warnings
According to Ben Anderson, a plaintiff attorney in the case,
the jury did not find a design defect, but did determine that
there had been a failure to warn Gross's doctor of the hazards,
and that there was a fraudulent misrepresentation of the
procedure in patient brochures.
Anderson said Gross has had 18 surgeries in which doctors
attempted to remove the mesh, and more than 440 doctor office
Morningstar analyst Damien Conover said Thursday that the
litigation does not pose a huge financial risk for J&J.
"From an investment standpoint, I don't think it's going to
be too damaging," he said, adding that plaintiff attorneys
usually pick the best cases to go first, and they are usually
not representative of the entire group of patients who sue.
J&J shares closed down about 0.3 percent to $76.11 on the
New York Stock Exchange.