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Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds $2 Million Verdict Against Transvaginal Mesh Maker

Earlier this month, in Cisson v. C.R. Bard, Inc., the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict awarding $250,000 in compensatory damages and $1.75 million in punitive damages in a product liability case alleging that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of a transvaginal mesh product.

The plaintiff was implanted with a Bard transvaginal mesh product to treat pelvic organ prolapse, one of the most common uses of mesh products. After suffering injuries and damages, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the product manufacturer in Georgia Federal District Court, alleging multiple theories of recovery, including negligence, design defect, failure to warn, and loss of consortium.

Thousands of similar lawsuits have been brought against the makers of transvaginal mesh products. As a result, the cases have been consolidated in the Southern District of West Virginia in a Multi-District Litigation (“MDL”), which is a proceeding designed to streamline the adjudication of these claims and preserve resources by addressing common issues of law and fact among the lawsuits. The plaintiff’s lawsuit was selected as one of the bellweather trials. A bellweather claim usually contains facts and legal issues that are common to many of the lawsuits in the MDL, and it is brought to trial to help the parties test the legal sufficiency of the claim and to inform any future settlement discussions.

At the close of trial, the jury returned its verdict, awarding a total of $2 million in damages, which the defendant contested immediately through post-trial motions, which the lower court denied.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court erred when it excluded evidence offered by the defense regarding the process used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”). At trial, Bard sought to offer evidence indicating that it had complied with the FDA’s 510(k) premarket approval process, stating that this evidence was relevant to refuting the plaintiff’s design defect claim. According to Bard, the lower court did not accurately understand the process.

In response to this argument, the plaintiff urged the appellate court to conclude that the defendant itself misunderstood the FDA’s approval process, and the plaintiff also suggested that the defense may have misrepresented certain aspects of the approval process to the court. Notwithstanding this argument, the plaintiff indicated that Bard failed to satisfy its burden of showing that the lower court committed an abuse of discretion when it excluded this evidence.

The Fourth Circuit disagreed with the defendant, finding that the lower court properly excluded the evidence at trial based on a finding that it was not relevant and that its potential for prejudicing the jury outweighed its probative value.

The plaintiff also filed an appeal following the trial, challenging a Georgia law requiring plaintiffs who prevail in product liability claims to pay three-quarters of their punitive damages award to the state. The Fourth Circuit ultimately rejected this challenge.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries after receiving a transvaginal mesh product, you may be entitled to compensation. The seasoned and dedicated medical device lawyers at Moll Law Group have counseled accident victims across the nation, including in California, New York, and Illinois. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about your options, so call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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