Johnson & Johnson loses pelvic mesh court appeal



The Federal Court has dismissed an appeal against a landmark judgment awarding $2.6 million to Australian women with faulty vaginal mesh implants.  

In March last year, drug company Johnson & Johnson and subsidiaries were ordered to pay damages to three women with faulty mesh implants: Kathryn Gill, Diane Dawson and Ann Sanders.

They were the lead applicants in a class action of thousands of women with serious side effects from the implants, including chronic pain and infection.  

The devices, also known as transvaginal mesh, were implanted into the pelvis for conditions that included pelvis organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. 

They were banned in 2017 and a Senate inquiry in 2018 found women who were suffering after having the mesh inserted were “ignored” and “treated appallingly”. 

A vaginal mesh implant on a table.
Hundreds of Australian women complained of serious and debilitating side effects from the implants.(ABC News: Jerry Rickard)

During a seven-month trial, a court heard of a “tidal wave” of aggressive marketing to surgeons and patients that suggested implanting the mesh was a “quick and easy operation”. 

Justice Anna Katzmann found that Johnson & Johnson was negligent and driven by commercial interests.  

Johnson & Johnson appealed against the decision in a Federal Court case before Justices Jayne Jagot, Bernard Murphy and Michael Lee. 

The three-judge panel dismissed the company’s appeal.

Two women
Lawyer Rebecca Jancauskas and claimant Peta Bennett spoke after the verdict(ABC News: Emilie Gramenz)

Shine Lawyers’ Class Actions Practice Leader Rebecca Jancauskas said this was one of the largest women’s health class actions in Australia’s history.  

“It has been a long journey to get to this point in a case which has been vigorously defended by Johnson & Johnson at every turn,” she said.

“We have fought hard to ensure the voices of these incredibly brave women are heard, as they’ve struggled with the chronic pain and life-altering complications from their mesh and tape implants.”

Ms Jancauskas said more than 10,000 Australian women have registered for the class action so far.  

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Peta Bennett reveals how a TVT implant impacted her life

Peta Bennett, who underwent a TVT implant procedure in 2004, said Friday’s Federal Court decision was a win for herself and others like her.

“The TVT failure has impacted my life terribly,” she said.

“I have bowel incontinence, severe pain in my groin and left leg, which affects my walking ability and also other physical actions.

“My marriage has dissolved, I am unable to live my life as I used to playing hockey or softball, jogging or just generally trying to keep fit.”

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson says it “empathises with all women who experience medical complications” but would “consider its options”.

The company said “it acted ethically and responsibly in the research, development and supply of its transvaginal mesh products and appropriately and responsibly communicated the benefits and risks to doctors and patients in Australia”.


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