Kelsey Stokes is a National Leader for Hernia Mesh Cases
For the past several years, the attorneys at Fleming, Nolen & Jez have been working and analyzing the complications that can affect patients whose hernias were treated with a mesh prosthetic.
FNJ attorney Kelsey Stokes is recognized as a national leader in the hernia mesh litigation. She was named Co-Lead Counsel in the MDL involving Covidien’s hernia mesh implant and was instrumental in consolidating those cases in the District of Massachusetts. Kelsey spends countless hours guiding fellow plaintiffs’ lawyers across the country on case evaluation and filing strategy in multiple jurisdictions.
Hernia Mesh Litigation Updates
It has now been five years since the start of lawsuits being filed against various hernia mesh manufacturers due to reported injuries and complications following hernia repair surgeries.
As of August 2023, there were 20,126 hernia mesh MDL cases filed against C.R. Bard, 565 against Ethicon, 601 against Covidien, and 3,378 against Atrium.
A third bellwether trial in the C.R. Bard hernia mesh MDL was supposed to take place May 15, 2023. Unfortunately, the MDL Judge granted a request by Bard to effectively delay this trial. The new date is scheduled for October 16, 2023.
A Rhode Island jury awarded a plaintiff $4.8 million in damages. The jury found that Bard’s Ventralex hernia mesh product was defectively designed and the company failed to warn patients and doctors of the risks.
The number of separate hernia mesh MDLs have now risen to four with the addition of Covidien and it’s Parietex implant product.
The second bellwether trial within the C.R. Bard Hernia Mesh MDL ended with a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding them $225,000. However, neither party were satisfied with the outcome. Both parties promptly submitted motions in an attempt to overturn the verdict.
The defense’s motion contended that there was insufficient evidence to establish causation. At the same time, the plaintiffs argued that the jury had not received adequate instructions on how to calculate damages. The MDL judge issued a pair of orders rejecting both motions, thereby solidifying the bellwether verdict’s validity unless overturned on appeal.
Case Background: What is a Hernia?
A Hernia commonly occurs when an organ, a piece of intestine or fatty tissue squeezes through a hole or a weak point in the surrounding muscle, connective tissue or other part of the abdominal wall. Roughly 1,000,000 Hernia surgeries are performed annually. 90% of these surgeries use a mesh prosthetic.
Common Hernia Locations
- Inguinal – occurs in the inner groin and is the most common.
- Femoral – occurs in the upper thigh/outer groin.
- Incisional – occurs through an incision or scar in the abdomen.
- Ventral – occurs in the general abdominal/ventral wall.
- Umbilical – occurs at the belly button.
- Hiatal – occurs inside the abdomen, along the upper stomach/diaphragm.
Common Hernia Symptoms
- Visible bulge in the abdominal wall especially with coughing or straining
- Hernia site has pain or pressure
- A heavy or dragging like feeling in the groin area
How are Hernias Treated?
There are two main treatment options:
- Open Repair – incision is made near the site, the hernia is repaired with mesh or by suturing the muscle closed.
Laparoscopic – hernia is repaired by mesh or sutures inserted through instruments placed into small incisions into the abdomen.
A small hernia should not need mesh, these can be repaired with sutures.
In the event a hernia requires more, Hernia mesh is used to supplement or reinforce damaged or missing tissue. There are various types of hernia mesh; some are made to remain permanently inside the body, while others are made to eventually be absorbed by the body.
Hernia Mesh Complications & Injuries
Some of the hernia mesh products used were created with materials that do not sit well with the human body, leading to the patient’s immune system rejecting the mesh as a foreign object. Additionally, other mesh products exhibited design flaws, resulting in abnormal attachment and fusion with surrounding tissues.
These flaws in the hernia mesh implants ultimately led to their failure post-implantation, causing severe complications for patients. Consequently, many patients had to undergo corrective surgeries to remove the faulty mesh, resulting in lasting injuries.
Types of Hernia Mesh Materials
- Porcine (pig skin) biologic
- Bovine (cow) biologic
- Cadaver (human) biologic
- Synthetic (polypropylene)
The majority of mesh is made out the same plastic used in soda bottles that are woven together. Certain hernia mesh products have been associated with increased rates of complications and the majority are synthetic. Polypropylene is the same material that is used to make many types of pelvic mesh and bladder slings. These same products were involved in the massive lawsuits.
These types of plastic materials are not designed to be used in the human body or contact with internal body fluids or tissues according to the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). In May of 2016, Ethicon issued an Urgent Field Safety Notice, asking hospitals and physicians throughout the country to discontinue using Physiomesh and to return the products to the manufacturer. The product weakens and fails over time. Aside from the possibility of additional surgery, most of these issues go away after the C-Qur is removed. C-Qur is the only mesh coated in fish oil.
Used to Aid in Healing
While surgical mesh is a common product employed to aid the heal process and prevent hernia recurrence, it has been linked to various injuries and complications when used in hernia treatment.
Symptoms of Hernia Mesh Rejection
- Adhesion: When the mesh implant sticks to other organs and tissue.
- Bowel Obstruction: When the implant sticks to the intestines of the patient or moves around in the body, blocking the bowel.
- Delayed or Long-Term Complications: When severe pain, adhesions or hernia recurrence occurs years after the original surgery.
- Groin or Testicular Pain: When a patient feels a burning sensation at the surgery site caused by pinched nerves after hernia mesh surgery.
- Hernia Recurrence: This is when a hernia returns after a mesh product fails. It’s a common complication of hernia surgery.
- Infection: A sign for this is when chronic inflammation is around the hernia mesh site.
- Migration: When the hernia mesh moves from the initial surgery site to other parts of the body.
- Pain: Pain at or around the hernia mesh site that lasts for months or years could be a sign of failure.
- Perforation of Organs or Tissues: When the hernia mesh implant punctures other body parts during migration.
- Revision Surgery: One or more surgeries to remove the mesh implant are needed depending on the severity of complications.
- Seromas: Pockets of fluid build up around the surgery site.
In severe cases, additional surgeries may be necessary to address issues caused by the hernia mesh prosthetic. Scar tissue development can sometimes make mesh removal impossible, prolonging suffering.
Hernia Mesh Lawsuits Continue to Rise
As the number of hernia mesh-related injuries continued to rise, a substantial wave of product liability lawsuits emerged. Within a year, the volume of hernia mesh lawsuits in federal courts across the country reached a point where the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established three new mass action Multidistrict Litigations (MDLs) to efficiently handle these cases:
- The Bard Hernia Mesh MDL (In re: Davol, Inc./C.R. Bard, Inc., Polypropylene Hernia Mesh Products Liability Lit. – MDL-2846)
- The Ethicon Hernia Mesh MDL (In re: Ethicon Physiomesh Flexible Composite Hernia Mesh Products Liability Lit. – MDL-2782) (which has recently settled, but new cases will continue to be filed)
- Atrium C-Qur Hernia Mesh MDL (In re: Atrium Medical Corp. C-Qur Mesh Products Liability Litigation – MDL-2753)
Claims from those Affected by Hernia Mesh Impants
Patients are filing legal actions, asserting that the hernia mesh implant utilized in their treatment proved ineffective. As a result, they experienced severe injuries and complications, and needed further revision surgeries to remove the product.
Hernia mesh manufacturers are facing lawsuits from patients seeking damages, which include compensation for lost income, medical expenses, pain, and emotional distress, as well as a diminished quality of life. A significant number of plaintiffs are dealing with persistent issues stemming from the hernia mesh implant, which revision surgery has failed to remedy.
If you underwent revision surgery to address hernia mesh complications, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and seek compensation for your pain and suffering.