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California Jury Awards Nearly $80 Million in Product Liability Action Against Ethicon Hemorrhoid Stapler

Earlier this month, a California jury awarded nearly $10 million in compensatory damages and a staggering $70 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary company Ethicon, stemming from alleged defects in the subsidiary’s hemorrhoid stapler device. The plaintiff was a former police officer who suffered injuries when medical professionals accidentally stapled the officer’s anus shut during a hemorrhoid operation. As a result of these complications, the plaintiff suffers from internal and external scars and a deformed bowel, and she has required the use of a colostomy bag for four years.

In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the surgeon who performed the operation was unable to fire the stapling gun properly because the device contained a defect. The plaintiff also alleged that this same defect could be found in roughly one-third of all Ethicon hemorrhoid stapler devices. The surgeon fired the stapler gun once and was unable to remove it without firing it a second time, resulting in the closure of the plaintiff’s anal canal.

The jury concluded that the force required to fire the stapler was more than what was provided in its specifications, and it was the result of a defective manufacturing process that minimized the amount of lubrication provided in the device. Instead of modifying the design and processes used to manufacture the device, the jury concluded that Ethicon pointed the blame at the surgeons who reported experiencing problems when using the stapler devices, despite the fact that Ethicon knew about the devices’ issues.

According to evidence provided at trial, Ethicon may have been aware about the problems associated with its Ethicon hemorrhoid stapler and its misfiring tendencies for nearly a decade, but it did not acknowledge the issue until it initiated a Class 1 recall of the affected units in 2011. This level of recall is the most severe form of recall and involves situations in which the recalled device or drug can lead to serious health consequences or even death.

The recall covered three different devices:  the Ethicon Proximate HCS Hemorrhoidal Circular Stapler (PPH01), the Ethicon Proximate PPH Hemorrhoidal Circular Stapler (PPH03), and the Ethicon Transtar Circular Stapler (STR10). All three of these devices were designed for use in a variety of surgeries, including anorectal wall defects, prolapse, and hemorrhoidal. The recall covered nearly 160,000 devices.

The plaintiff had also included the physician in her complaint as a defendant. According to the jury, however, the doctor was not responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries because the doctor received no warning of the stapler gun’s tendency to misfire.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries as the result of a defective medical device, the experienced and dedicated lawyers at Moll Law Group can help. We represent victims throughout the United States, including in California, Texas, New York, and Illinois. We know how traumatic this experience is for you and your family and will stand by you through every step of the litigation. Call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.

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