An appeals court in California has upheld a lower non-jury trial’s ruling made in 2020, confirming that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) must pay $302 million in fines stemming from its Ethicon subsidiary’s deceptive marketing practices for its tranvaginal or pelvic mesh products.
The fine won’t be paid to individual women who filed personal injury surgical mesh claims. Instead, the payment, should the ruling be confirmed after a likely appeal to the California Supreme Court, will go to the state of California.
Announced April 11, the decision by California’s Fourth District of Appeal upholds a ruling made by Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon in San Diego, who originally assessed the fine at $344 million.
The California 4th Circuit, which reached a 3-0 decision, slashed $42 million in penalties because they ruled that not enough evidence was presented that showed exactly what Ethicon sales reps told doctors during their sales pitches.
However, the 4th Circuit ruled that Judge Sturgeon was presented with ample evidence that Ethicon knowingly deceived both physicians and patients about the risks posed by its products, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The presiding judge of the 3-0 decision said that Ethicon falsified or omitted “the full range, severity, duration, and cause of complications” associated with its pelvic mesh products, “as well as the potential irreversibility and catastrophic consequences.”
J&J, the world’s largest health care product manufacturer, valued at over $70 billion, said the penalty was too steep. But the presiding judge shot down that argument, saying that the fine amounted to less than 1% of the company’s net worth.
In 2016, California sued J&J over Ethicon’s transvaginal/pelvic mesh products for failure to warn claims. A nine-week trial began in July 2019, the same year that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ordered all mesh manufacturers to stop selling surgical mesh devices for the repair of pelvic organ prolapse. J&J faced over 40,000 personal injury mesh claims in 2019.