The plaintiffs in the lawsuits against manufacturers of transvaginal mesh have terrible stories. These women went into surgery believing their doctors had a solution for urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. After the surgery, though, they developed even more serious health issues: constant pain, permanent damage to bladders and other organs, additional surgeries and all the medical bills that go with continuing treatment.
Those experiences have prompted more than 70,000 women to file product liability lawsuits against seven manufacturers of mesh devices. The companies include heavy hitters like Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific. Some cases have gone to trial, others have settled out of court, and still others have yet to be heard. Not every plaintiff has prevailed.
This kind of complicated litigation can be slow-going. The Food & Drug Administration issued a warning about the risk of complications in 2008, some seven years ago. Building a case against a manufacturer and defending hundreds, if not thousands, of cases takes time. And money.
Plaintiffs' attorneys often represent personal injury clients on a contingency basis. The attorney takes no money up front but receives a certain percentage of the damage award if the plaintiff wins. In high profile product liability disputes -- like the transvaginal mesh lawsuits -- it is in their own best interests if plaintiffs' attorneys attract as many clients as possible. Big corporations have deep pockets, the thinking goes, and these plaintiffs have serious health problems.
The thing is, though, there are rules about attorney advertising and solicitation. In New York, for example, an attorney can only directly solicit business from a close friend, a relative, a former client or an existing client. Calling the family of someone killed by a drunk driver is strictly forbidden. This is the rule that put an end to -- or was supposed to put an end to -- ambulance chasing.
Imagine Johnson & Johnson's surprise, then, when the company heard that its own representatives were calling women about their transvaginal mesh surgery and pressuring them to litigate.
That is, the callers said they were from J&J. J&J has its own theory.
We'll explain in our next post.
Source: Carrier Management, "J&J Claims Illegal Solicitation of Women to Join Transvaginal Mesh Lawsuits," Jessica Dye, Jan. 15, 2015