Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has reached a $300 million settlement in two class actions, after women around the world suffered devastating complications from the company’s defective pelvic mesh implants.
Shine Lawyers, which filed the Australian class actions, said the settlement is the largest in a product liability class action in Australian history. It is subject to Federal Court approval.
The law firm alleged Johnson & Johnson failed to test its pelvic mesh devices adequately and didn’t properly warn doctors, surgeons or patients about their risk, per The Guardian.
Shine Lawyers’ class actions practice leader Rebecca Jancauskas said the $300 million would help cover women’s ongoing treatment for injuries caused by the mesh implants.
“We welcome this settlement which brings the litigation to an end,” she said.
“If the Federal Court approves the settlement our focus will shift to the important task of distributing the settlement to group members.”
The mesh implants aimed to fix pelvic floor damage by permanently supporting weakened pelvic organs and repairing damaged tissue.
But women suffered debilitating issues after the mesh implants were inserted. According to the Australian Financial Review, these included: “Chronic pain, pain during sexual intercourse or avoiding intercourse, damage to surrounding organs and tissues, leg weakness, reoperation or revision surgery, psychiatric injury and incontinence.”
Shine Lawyers filed the first class action in the Federal Court in October 2012. It ran to trial over seven months, from July 2017 to February 2018.
In November 2019, the Federal Court found Johnson & Johnson was negligent over the testing and sale of its pelvic mesh implants.
In February 2021, Johnson & Johnson Medical and its subsidiary Ethicon appealed the decision to the Full Court of the Federal Court, which dismissed the appeal.
Johnson & Johnson Medical sought special leave to appeal to the High Court in November 2021, which was also dismissed.
Shine Lawyers launched a second class action in April 2021 to assist women with mesh implants who were not eligible to join the first class action.
Similar class actions have been filed in the UK, Canada and the United States, which have so far resulted in $11.7 billion in settlements.
In 2018, then Health Minister Greg Hunt publicly apologised on behalf of the government to Australian women who have suffered catastrophic consequences from transvaginal mesh implants. The apology was issued after a Senate inquiry found thousands of women had been let down by health professionals who ignored, dismissed and downplayed their symptoms.