Roughly half a million surgical hernia repairs are performed in the United States every year. Over the last 12 years, a significant number of hernia repairs have failed and created complications for patients because of the composite meshes used in surgery.
“Complications caused by mesh can occur within a few months of the repair surgery,” said Whitney Butcher, an attorney with Whitley Law Firm. “Recurrence of the hernia is one of the symptoms the mesh is failing. You’ve got pain, consistent or constant infections and if left untreated it can be very serious.”
Product liability cases like these tend to take years, and they are risky and very expensive for the law firms handling the litigation. Accordingly, product liability and personal injury firms tend to litigate against a finite number of bad drugs or bad medical devices such as airbags, breast implants, talcum powder and hernia meshes.
The firm is now representing patients who may have received a faulty hernia mesh. The firm also handles failed hip implants, Zofran, Granuflo used in dialysis, talc powder and transvaginal meshes cases.
“In cases like these, we team up with some of the best lawyers in the country to do discovery and in developing a strategy,” said Ben Whitley, a partner with the firm.
“There is a sharing of information and strategy so being well-connected is extremely important,” said Butcher. The firm had a role on the discovery committee in the Granuflo ligation.
“We can’t stop the injury from having happened. We certainly can’t change time, but we can get them some comfort and peace so they can move on with their lives,” added Whitley.
Similar to Transvaginal Meshes
The Physiomesh hernia patch is made of flexible plastic fibers woven in to a fabric and sandwiched between a thick polymer coating intended to prevent inflammation and adhesions. The mesh patch is supposed to act as a barrier from internal organs, preventing adhesions while promoting in-growth into the abdominal wall for permanent repair.
“These hernia mesh cases are really very similar to the transvaginal mesh cases because they both involve the polypropylene mesh. There was no clinical trial for these types of hernia mesh before they went to market,” explained Butcher. “They were approved by the FDA because they were similar to another product already on the market.”
Physiomesh, which was made by Johnson and Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary, and CQur, which was made by Atrium Medical, have both been named in some of the current litigation. There may be even more types of affected brands.
“The Physiomesh was recalled by the company in May 2016. It’s off the shelves but that doesn’t necessarily help people who already received the product. The failure rates are pretty high,” said Butcher.
Butcher defined what she is looking for when receiving a hernia mesh referral from another firm. “We are looking for hernia mesh surgery within the last 12 years, laparoscopic surgery for an abdominal hernia, with mesh revision or removal surgery or other complications requiring medical treatment.”
“If someone had a hernia repair where any sort of mesh was used and they are having some sort of symptoms, it’s worth checking with an attorney before the mesh is repaired. It’s going to be important that we retain any mesh that is actually removed. It’s one of the most compelling pieces of evidence in these cases.”
Butcher said the hernia mesh cases will not be rolled up into a class action suit. “Each case will be pursued individually and independently. We will get their medical records to see if they received one of these products. Then we’ll decide whether to file their case or not.”
“Pain and suffering is the biggest component of these types of cases. It’s far more than just medical expenses. If you have an abnormal, foreign substance in your body that’s becoming entwined and you can never get rid of it, that’s impacting that human for the rest of their time on earth,” said Butcher.
“These kinds of lawsuit can take a couple years. Attorneys have to be in it from day one and be passionate about it from the beginning. They have to have the resources to take on these kinds of big cases and big battles.”