This month, a new lawsuit has joined the transvaginal mesh multidistrict litigation (MDL) that was established in federal court in Georgia for cases involving Mentor’s ObTape. That’s not unusual given the numerous reports of serious complications associated with these defective medical devices by patients throughout the United States. However, this plaintiff does have one aspect to her case that isn’t all that common.
Arizona resident Mary Higbee is not suing her doctors; she is holding only manufacturer Mentor Worldwide accountable for the irreversible damage to her body. In her lawsuit, Higbee claims the ObTape sling was implanted “properly and appropriately” by her physicians.
Higbee chose to use an ObTape sling to correct the stress urinary incontinence (SUI) she has been living with because, she says, the company led her to believe its product was safe and effective. SUI is a condition in which the patient involuntarily leaks urine during everyday activities, such as sneezing, coughing and laughing, that put pressure on the bladder. SUI often is seen in older women whose pelvic muscles are weakened as a result of pregnancy and childbirth.
Higbee accuses Mentor of negligence and wrongful conduct because she said the manufacturer knowingly marketed a dangerous device. As a result, Higbee has been left with permanent injuries and chronic pain from the bladder sling and continues to face corrective surgeries to try to remove the mesh and reduce scarring.
Bladder Sling Multidistrict Litigation
Her case joins In Re Mentor Corp. ObTape Transobturator Sling Products Liability Litigation (MDL 2004), which is being overseen by Judge Clay D. Land in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. The MDL is a growing collection of federal lawsuits with similar claims against a common defendant. A judicial panel establishes an MDL to expedite the pre-trial discovery phase of gathering evidence and testimony. Then, each case is returned to the original lawyer and the plaintiffs are entitled to separate trials or monetary settlements.
The first state lawsuit over defective transvaginal mesh went to a trial last month in California, and the jury found manufacturer C.R. Bard and the patient’s surgeon at fault for Christine Scott’s suffering and permanent damage from the Avaulta Plus device. As a result, the plaintiff and her husband were awarded a total judgment of $5.5 million — and the jury assigned 40 percent of that to Scott’s doctor. In other words, the jury found that the surgeon who implanted the transvaginal mesh was almost equally to blame for its failure as the device itself.