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  • Victims pose for photos after the ruling was announced in a transvaginal mesh device class action, outside the Federal Court in Sydney, Australia, on Nov 21, 2019.

    Victims pose for photos after the ruling was announced in a transvaginal mesh device class action, outside the Federal Court in Sydney, Australia, on Nov 21, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 November 2019

Thousands of women in the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and Canada, among others, have sued Johnson & Johnson over side effects of pelvic implants.

More than 1,350 women who have suffered debilitating side effects of pelvic mesh implants won a landmark class-action lawsuit against multinational giant Johnson & Johnson on Thursday in Sydney.

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The case, which began in 2012, has been described by the prosecution as the biggest class action concerning women’s health in Australia’s history.

The Federal Court of Australia held the behavior of the American multinational and its subsidiary Ethicon as “negligent” underlining that “the risks were known, not insignificant, and on the respondents’ own admission, could cause significant and serious harm if they eventuated.”

Women have said that the pelvic implants – mesh or tape surgically placed to resolve pelvic floor damage such as that commonly caused during childbirth – have caused debilitating problems such as urinary incontinence, chronic pain – including during sex –, infections and a significant psychological toll.

The court heard that three women who brought the class action – Kathryn Gill, Diane Dawson and Ann Sanders – described their symptoms ranging from “pain... so bad she struggles to breathe,” “excruciating pain across her buttocks, pain deep inside her vagina, and pain that radiated down her leg,” and “chronic pain and multiple other symptoms. Her enjoyment of life has been substantially diminished” to “frightened about what the future holds.”

The court judgment said one or more surgical procedures may be required to remove mesh that had eroded, and that “removal carried the risk of new complications or of aggravating existing complications.”

“I found that the respondents were liable to compensate any applicant and/or group member who suffered an injury because of the defect for the amount of the loss and damage she sustained as a result of that injury,” Judge Anna Katzmann said.

She granted the parties time to read the judgment and reach an agreement, and “each of the applicants will need to make an election as to whether she wishes to receive damages under the Trade Practices Act or at common law” before her final decision in February next year.

The compensation is expected to reach millions of dollars given that some 8,000 women are estimated to have been affected, according to Shine Lawyers, a legal firm representing the women in the case.

“It has been a long journey to get here through this legal process. We have fought hard to have these women’s voices heard, as they’ve struggled with the chronic pain and complications from their mesh and tape implants,” Shine Lawyers’ Special Counsel for Class Actions Rebecca Jancauskas said in a statement.

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