Arguments start in trial against mesh implant manufacturers
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - An attorney for a Georgia woman who claims she was injured by a vaginal mesh implant said she was never told of the possible complications and that the company's testing of the device was insufficient.
Donna Cisson's case against C.R. Bard is the first of four cases being heard in U.S. District Court by Judge Joseph Goodwin. The Charleston judge was selected to handle nearly 26,000 vaginal mesh claims against six manufacturers.
A jury was picked Monday and opening arguments in the case were given Tuesday. The judge has allotted three weeks for the first trial involving Cisson and manufacturer C.R. Bard.
"The company knew in 2002 and 2003 that synthetic vaginal mesh could cause significant erosion of the patient's tissues, and infection," said Henry Garrard, Cisson's attorney.
"Bard knows safety is important," Garrard told jurors. "But they let Mrs. Cisson down."
Cisson sat beside her husband in the courtroom and both dabbed their eyes repeatedly as Garrard detailed her physical pain and complications following her surgery to help correct incontinence and organ prolapse.
The polypropylene transvaginal mesh device is usually supplied to physicians in a surgical kit and is often used as a way to support pelvic organs. But thousands of women have filed lawsuits, contending the plastic degraded over time and caused internal injuries and pain.
Garrard said doctors weren't provided enough information about those possible risks and were not given good instructions on what to do if patients had adverse effects.
Cisson underwent surgery to remove the mesh device, but it could only be partially removed.
"Doctors did not have a good way to get this stuff out once it went bad," Garrard said. "The arms of this thing are like rebar in concrete. You can't get them out.
"She's got them forever," he said. "She has to worry about this forever."
But plaintiff's attorney Lori Cohen, representing Bard, said Cisson was a patient with a history of medical problems that went back to the 1980s.
Cohen told the jury, "She had a vaginal tear from a forceps delivery, she had a hysterectomy, she had organ prolapse, bladder and rectal incontinence, obesity and thyroid cancer."
Cohen noted that in April, Cisson was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and spinal problems. Her back problems, too, dated to the 1980s, she said.
"And her medical issues have improved since surgery," said Cohen.
Bard, she said, has spent decades developing and testing the vaginal mesh device.
"This is not a fly-by-night company, or a fly-by-night product," Cohen said. "Polypropylene is a medical necessity and it has been around since the 1950s.
"Bard went above and beyond to bring these devices to doctors for patients' benefit," she said.
"There are risks with any surgery. The success rate with transvaginal mesh surgery is 97 percent -- better than the risk with traditional vaginal surgery to repair this problem."
Judge Goodwin is using Cisson's case, and the three that will follow, to understand the key issues in the thousands of similar lawsuits filed and how best to proceed with them.
Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4832.
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