A weekly update on interesting numbers in product liability, class action and mass tort news from August 4–August 10. Published Fridays.
The number of women Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon supposedly tested their pelvic mesh products on before bringing them to market. Late last week, the sixth case to go to trial in a mass tort program involving the medical devices began. The woman at the center of this case claims that the implanted mesh device eroded into her urethra, requiring multiple corrective surgeries and ultimately leaving her incontinent. Mesh lawsuits continue to produce multi-million dollar verdicts as more women come forward. This week, Endo International PLC, a different company that makes similar pelvic mesh products, announced that they would settle around 22,000 mesh lawsuits for $775 million.
The number of years Eva Echeverria says she used talc products daily before developing ovarian cancer. The woman at the center of the talc trial repeatedly featured in this column testified this week that she had no warning that her use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc product could cause cancer. Echeverria was given six months to live by her doctors after she was diagnosed with cancer. Talc cancer lawsuits are mostly centralized in Missouri and have already seen large verdicts in favor of plaintiffs, but some predict that a win in California could spur additional litigation.
The total length of emails, text messages, and other internal Monsanto communications released for public viewing by lawyers suing Monsanto. The released documents indicate Monsanto may have influenced “independent” scientific studies through consulting groups and have caused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to open a collusion investigation. This week, the lawyers that allegedly released the sealed documents were criticized by the judge overseeing the case, asking them to demonstrate why he shouldn’t kick them off the case. The judge had also criticized Monsanto for attempting to improperly seal documents, so it remains unclear how this will impact the case.
5 parts per trillion
The maximum contaminant level California has set for 1,2,3-trichloropropane (TCP) in drinking water. TCP is classified as a “likely carcinogen” by the EPA, spurring the movement to get the compound regulated by the State Water Board. Reports indicate that hundreds of wells that serve California’s Central Valley could be contaminated by the chemical to the point that the State Water Board has advised citizens that live in areas where the chemical is present not to shower. One lawyer interviewed by NBC said that the presence of TCP in drinking water can be traced to chemical companies packaging the chemical into pesticides, even though it had no discernible benefit to the pesticide. The state’s new regulation may result in increased drinking water litigation. Improper disposal of chemicals has been a target for lawsuits in the past.
The number of deaths the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has linked to the placement of gastric balloons, medical devices used to treat obesity. In a safety alert issued Thursday, the FDA warned healthcare providers that liquid-filled intragastric balloon devices made by ReShape Medical Inc. and Apollo Endo Surgery have been associated with 5 patient deaths. The FDA noted that they could not definitively say that the devices or the procedure for implanting them caused the deaths, though one doctor interviewed by the LA Times speculated that the problems are likely due to errors in technique. This safety alert follows previous warnings by the FDA about the balloons that cautioned doctors about the risk of over-inflation and acute pancreatitis.
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