The sixth pelvic mesh product liability trial against Ethicon, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, is underway in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff was injured by Ethicon’s TVT Secur pelvic mesh product, requiring her to undergo multiple corrective surgeries and removal of mesh fragments from her urethra. The plaintiff alleges that the defective pelvic mesh product has caused perforations to her urethra, incontinence, and pain. The complaint alleges design defect and a failure to warn.

Citing the recent United States Supreme Court decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California (BMS), Ethicon, Inc. argued that the company’s lack of tangible links to Pennsylvania prevented the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas from hearing pelvic mesh cases. Ninety of the cases filed in the Philadelphia court that alleging injuries caused by defective pelvic mesh implants were filed by out-of-state residents.

Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson were incorporated and have their principal place of business in New Jersey. The nonresident plaintiffs received their mesh implants and related treatment outside of the Pennsylvania.

Ethicon Inc. argued that the BMS case limits a state court’s ability to assert specific jurisdiction over nonresident companies, and that in the case before the court, there was no evidence of a link between the company’s conduct, the nonresident plaintiffs’ alleged injuries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Ethicon relied not only on the BMS case but also on BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrell, which also limits the extent to which state courts can exercise general jurisdiction over nonresident companies.

Just a few weeks earlier, a Philadelphia County judge agreed to reconsider a two year old ruling allowing nonresident claims against Ethicon relating to the allegedly defective pelvic mesh to proceed.

Whether Ethicon’s contacts with the Commonwealth are sufficient to allow jurisdiction has become the key issue. The nonresident plaintiffs argued that Ethicon’s contract with Pennsylvania-based third-party manufacturer of plastic filaments used in Ethicon’s pelvic mesh product provided sufficient contacts with the Commonwealth.

Scar plate formation, chronic inflammation, erosion, and mesh migration are possible complications allegedly due to defective pelvic mesh. There are many types of pelvic mesh products that are manufactured by various companies. Approximately 54,000 women have filed pelvic mesh lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon nationwide. Additional cases have been filed other device manufacturers.

In cases already concluded in the Pennsylvania pelvic mesh mass tort litigation involving Ethicon transvaginal mesh lawsuits, four juries found in favor of the plaintiffs, who were awarded damages of $2.16 million, $12.5 million, $13.5 million and $20 million. One jury ruled in favor of Ethicon but the plaintiff was granted a new damages hearing after the judge found the verdict was inconsistent with the evidence.