Ethicon (a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary) is defending over 3,000 lawsuits alleging that the defective design of its Physiomesh® hernia mesh product caused serious complications and injuries for surgery patients who had it implanted inside them.
The Ethicon Physiomesh hernia mesh lawsuits have been pending for 4 years and progress was significantly delayed by COVID shutdowns in 2020.
In this post, we will take a brief look at the Ethicon Physiomesh lawsuits and the current status of the Physiomesh class-action MDL as of September 2021.
If you have a potential Physiomesh lawsuit it is not too late to file your case. Call our hernia mesh lawyers today.
About the Ethicon Physiomesh
Ethicon’s Physiomesh was a new type of permanent hernia mesh device. A hernia mesh is a type of surgical netting or screen material that is used to help strengthen and reinforce muscle and tissue after surgery. All surgical mesh implants must be designed in a way that they will be accepted by the body’s immune system and not become attached to adjacent tissue or organs.
The Physiomesh was a new and unique design for surgical mesh implants. The mesh screen was made out of polypropylene (a type of plastic). The plastic mesh was covered in a special coating that was designed to make the Physiomesh compatible inside the body and prevent tissue attachment. Unfortunately, the design of the Physiomesh turned out to be fundamentally flawed and the mesh did not function as intended.
Once inside the body, the Physiomesh materials caused a severe inflammatory immune system response in some patients.
This resulted in swelling and severe pain and eventually required corrective surgery to remove the mesh. This complication was primarily linked to problems with the coating. However, the polypropylene mesh material itself proved to be problematic and not biocompatible in some recipients.
After years of adverse events and complications related to these problems, Ethicon eventually issued a safety recall notice in 2016 which advised doctors and hospitals to stop using the Physiomesh products immediately. Not long after this recall, Physiomesh lawsuits started to get filed across the country by people who had the defective mesh product surgically implanted and suffered adverse results.
Ethicon Physiomesh Consolidated Lawsuits
In the years after the Physiomesh recall, thousands of product liability lawsuits were filed against Ethicon. The lawsuits allege that the Physiomesh was defectively designed in a number of fundamental ways and that Ethicon failed to do adequate testing before releasing it on the market.
In July 2018 the Ethicon hernia mesh lawsuits in the federal courts were consolidated into a new “class-action” MDL proceeding: (In re: Ethicon Physiomesh Flexible Composite Hernia Mesh Products Liability Lit. – MDL-2782). This new Ethicon Physiomesh MDL was established in the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta) and assigned to veteran Judge Ricard Story.
The Ethicon Physiomesh MDL currently has 3,596 individual plaintiffs. Most of these cases have been pending for over 2 years. The consolidated MDL proceedings against Ethicon have progressed quite slowly as we are in year 4 and have yet to see the first bellwether case go to trial.
One of the primary reasons for this protracted pace was the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the start of 2020, the Ethicon Physiomesh MDL was just entering into its final stages, with bellwether trials set to begin in the first half of the year. By the end of March, however, the federal court system was shut down and everything was effectively put on hold for several months.
Finally, in July 2020, as things started opening up again, 4 Physiomesh cases were selected for “bellwether trials”:
Plaintiff Case No.
James Bovian 1:17-cv-04840
Jim Crumbley 1:18-cv-00748
Danielle Guffey 1:18-cv-00402
Jeffrey Smith 1:17-cv-05031
The first of these cases was originally scheduled for trial on November 2, 2020, with a second trial set for the following month. Another round of COVID shutdowns coupled with requests by the parties led to this first date trial getting pushed to June 7, 2021, with subsequent trials to follow in September and October.
On May 18, 2021, however, Judge Story issued an order which continued the June trial (and all other deadlines in the initial pool of bellwether cases) “until further notice.”
That is basically where we still stand as of September 2021. The bellwether trials and everything else in the Ethicon Physiomesh MDL is on hold until further notice.
Global Settlement of the Physiomesh Lawsuits is Anticipated
The reason that Judge Story postponed the trial schedule and has left this litigation on ice for the last 4 months is that Ethicon and the plaintiffs’ steering committee are very close to finalizing a universal settlement of all pending cases. The global settlement will involve Ethicon agreeing to set aside a large lump sum in order to settle out all of the 3,596 pending Physiomesh cases.
The settlement fund from Ethicon will be distributed among the plaintiffs based on a tiered or point system. This system will rank each individual plaintiff’s case based on the severity of their injuries.
Those plaintiffs with more severe injuries (and more “points” on the settlement scale) will receive a slightly larger settlement payout compared to plaintiffs with less serious injuries.
How Much Will Ethicon Hernia Mesh Plaintiffs Get in the Settlement?
Any estimate of the settlement payouts in the Physiomesh lawsuits is pure speculation at this stage because no settlement has been finalized as of yet. However, based on Ethicon’s history of settlements in similar previous cases, we can make an educated guess.
We believe that the average settlement payout for Ethicon hernia mesh plaintiffs will be around $70,000. This will be distributed on a point-based tier system designed to give more compensation to those plaintiffs with greater injuries.
For example, a plaintiff who died as a result of complications with the Physiomesh would be in “TIER I” and might get $100,000-$120,000.
Plaintiffs who only had minor complications and no permanent injuries would be in “TIER III” and may only get $40,000-$60,000. Plaintiffs who get categorized in TIER II might get $65,000-$75,000.