Boston Scientific Corp. was ordered to pay $73 million to a woman who said a defectively designed vaginal-mesh implant left her in constant pain, in the first award against the device maker over its incontinence slings.
Boston Scientific is liable for Martha Salazar’s injuries, which she blamed on the company’s Obtryx sling, jurors in Texas state court in Dallas said yesterday. They awarded her about $23 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages, according to a court filing.
Boston Scientific had won the first two cases to reach trial over the Obtryx sling. The Natick, Massachusetts-based company faces more than 12,000 lawsuits in which women contend its vaginal mesh implants, including the slings, erode within the body. Organs may be damaged and pain can result, requiring surgery to remove the device, according to patients who sued.
“This woman was seeking help with minor urine leakage and wound up with a catastrophic, life-altering injury that required four major surgeries,” Salazar’s lawyer Dave Matthews said in a telephone interview. “It’s a tragedy that these slings are still on the market.”
Matthews said his client, a former property manager, can no longer sit comfortably or walk or exercise normally as a result of her injuries. Boston Scientific disagrees with the verdict and will appeal, said Kelly Leadem, a company spokeswoman.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson and more than 30 other vaginal- implant makers in 2012 to study rates of organ damage and complications linked to the products. Many of the cases against Boston Scientific, J&J and C.R. Bard Inc. have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin in Charleston, West Virginia. Others have been filed in state courts in Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas and California.
Boston Scientific and other makers of vaginal inserts targeted in suits had talks this year about settling cases over the devices, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Endo International Plc agreed in April to pay $830 million to resolve about 20,000 lawsuits alleging its vaginal-mesh inserts eroded in some women and left them incontinent and in pain.
Juries in New Jersey and West Virginia over the past year have ruled that J&J and Bard implants caused women’s injuries and ordered the companies to pay a total of more than $13 million in damages.
In Salazar’s case, the Dallas jury returned with a verdict the same day it began deliberations, finding Boston Scientific’s sling suffered from a faulty design. The panel also found company officials failed to properly warn patients and doctor’s about the insert’s health risks.
Jurors said Boston Scientific’s handling of the slings amounted to gross negligence, which Mathews said allowed the jury to award punitive-damages.
During the two-week trial before Texas District Judge Ken Molberg, Matthews said he asked the jury to award Salazar $14 million for her injuries and her pain and suffering.
As part of the evidence in the case, Matthews presented an August 2000 e-mail from Alex Robbins, a Boston Scientific executive, in which he tells salespeople to ignore a company- funded study raising questions about the sling’s safety.
“I certainly wouldn’t hand this out to any physicians,” Robbins said in the e-mail.
The case is Salazar v. Lopez, No. DC-1214349, District Court for Dallas County, 95th Judicial District of Texas (Dallas).
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