Texas Jury Hears Openings In Johnson & Johnson Pelvic Mesh Trial, Watch Online via CVN

Posted by David Siegel on Dec 1, 2022 10:12:33 AM

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CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Ben Martin delivering his opening statement

Dallas, TX - A Texas state court jury heard opening statements Wednesday in a product liability lawsuit claiming an allegedly defective pelvic mesh implant manufactured by Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit left a woman suffering from chronic pain and nerve damage, and the trial is being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

Attorney Ben Martin of Martin Baughman told the Dallas County jury that Ethicon’s “Gynecare TVT Abbrevo” transvaginal mesh implant caused serious injuries to his client, Jennifer Snowden, due to the implant’s use of the chemical polypropylene, which Martin argued can cause the mesh to shrink and prompt an adverse reaction with human tissue. He accused J&J of knowing the supposed risks of polypropylene mesh products but failing to adequately warn doctors and patients.

Snowden also sued the implanting physician, Dr. Charmaine Oladell, making this trial one of the first to combine both product liability claims against a mesh manufacturer and claims against a treating doctor in the same proceeding.

Attorneys for both J&J and Dr. Oladell argued that use of the TVT Abbrevo was consistent with the standard of care to treat Snowden’s stress urinary incontinence, and that the device has safely and effectively helped thousands of other women without complications.

(Click here to check out this summary of all the pelvic mesh cases included among the hundreds of civil trials in CVN's online video library - all available with a monthly or annual CVN subscription)

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Martin did not ask for a specific amount of damages in his opening statement, telling jurors that Snowden, who was 34 at the time, went to Dr. Oladell in 2018 for a hysterectomy meant to treat ongoing pelvic pain, and that the Abbrevo was implanted during the hysterectomy surgery to address Snowden’s relatively minor incontinence issues. He explained that when Snowden had another surgery months later to remove the mesh due to increased pain, that the tissue surrounding the device showed extensive damage.

Martin detailed to jurors internal deliberations within Ethicon he claimed would prove the company knew for years that shrinkage of polypropylene mesh and the risk of foreign body reactions could cause serious complications in patients. Characterizing the Abbrevo as a “cash cow” for Ethicon, he accused the company of withholding that information from both patients and doctors to protect a profitable product line.

Martin told jurors they would have to determine whether or not Dr. Oladell knew the Abbrevo was supposedly defective, whether or not she was privy to the information in J&J’s internal deliberations, and if so what amount of responsibility she bears for Snowden's condition. He was less ambiguous about J&J’s alleged liability, maintaining that J&J’s supposed lack of candor about its polypropylene mesh products was harmful to patients and doctors alike who thought they were safe.

Ethicon attorney Victor Vital of Barnes & Thornburg LLP told jurors during his opening statement that Snowden’s ongoing pain is caused by the same factors that caused her to seek a hysterectomy and not due to the implantation of the Abbrevo.

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CVN screenshot of Ethicon attorney Victor Vital delivering his opening statement

He said the Abbrevo remains on the market today, and that doctors have been safely using the device in patients since 2010. He emphasized the implant underwent extensive safety testing, and that reports of complications related to its use are comparatively rare. If polypropylene mesh caused such a clear tissue reaction, Vital argued there would be vastly more patients claiming the device harmed them.

Vital also maintained that Dr. Oladell had extensive access to information about the Abbrevo in medical literature spanning her 17-year clinical career, and he repeatedly stressed that the Abbrevo was and remains the standard of care for treating patients like Snowden for doctors nationwide. 

Representing Dr. Oladell, attorney Diane Shaw of Shaw & Associates also focused on the fact the use of the Abbrevo is consistent with the standard of care, and that Snowden supposedly fully consented to its use with all necessary warnings issued by Dr. Oladell  prior to its implantation.

Shaw argued that Dr. Oladell’s clinical decisions for Snowden were all in line with standards of treatment across the country for patients with her condition. She told jurors that Snowden’s ongoing pain and inflammation after the Abbrevo was removed are all due to the mesh device itself, which Dr. Oladell reasonably thought was safe to use, and not due to her actions as a physician.

The trial is taking place before Judge Paula Rosales and is expected to take between two and three weeks to complete. CVN’s live and on-demand video coverage of the trial will continue for the duration of the proceedings, including all lay and expert witness testimony. 

The case is captioned Jennifer Snowden v. Ethicon, et al., case number CC-19-05461-D, in the County Court at Law No. 4 in Dallas County.

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Topics: Products Liability, Medical Malpractice