This month, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) will hear arguments regarding whether to consolidate the numerous pending cases against Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, regarding its physiomesh products. The JPML is the body responsible for overseeing multi-district litigation (MDL), which is a legal process that is somewhat similar to class actions. When dangerous products harm numerous victims, the cases often involve similar factual allegations and legal claims. To streamline the process and promote efficiency, the cases can be organized in an MDL proceeding before one judge. Unlike a class action, each plaintiff maintains his or her individual case and must prove that he or she is entitled to damages.
Physiomesh is a product targeted toward hernia repair surgeries. It is a synthetic mesh material that is marketed to be used in laparoscopic herniorrhaphy procedures. The product’s unique design features five separate layers. Two types of material make up the first four layers, while the final layer is polypropylene mesh. This design has not been used in other mesh products. According to Ethicon, the multi-layer feature is designed to reduce adhesions and inflammation and to help fixate and incorporate the mesh into the abdominal area.
The concern regarding Ethicon’s physiomesh arose in May 2016 when the company issued a recall after discovering that the product leads to higher revision rates when used in a specific type of hernia repair. Revision surgeries can be extremely painful and expensive for patients, especially when they anticipated having their medical issue resolved during the first procedure.