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From Products Liability Law Daily, December 16, 2015

Botched hemorrhoid surgery nets $80M pain in J&J’s pocketbook

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

A California jury hit Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon division with a $70 million award of punitive damages in the case of a patient who was seriously injured when an allegedly defective stapler used during a hemorrhoidopexy surgery closed in her anal canal. Just four days earlier, on December 10, 2015, the jury had awarded the patient and her husband $10 million in compensatory damages (Kulhman v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery, LLC, December 14, 2015, Bolden, V.).

Underlying complaint. In her complaint, the patient alleged Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon Endo-Surgery, the manufacturers of the stapler used during her surgery, knew that the device was dangerous and unsafe for use in performing hemorrhoid surgery. The complaint alleged that the dangers included misfiring, incomplete firing strokes, and incomplete staple formation which resulted in sphincter dysfunction, rectal wall damage, sepsis, bleeding, and occlusion of the rectal canal. The patient also alleged that these companies failed to take appropriate action to cure these defects and to warn physicians of the device’s dangerous characteristics. The patient also alleged that the manufacturers concealed material facts known to them and acted in willful and conscious disregard of the rights and safety of others.

Jury verdicts. Based on findings that the stapler contained a manufacturing defect and that the manufacturers had knowledge of potential risks posed by the device but failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions regarding those potential risks, the jury awarded the patient and her husband a total of $9,823,566.60 in compensatory damages as follows: past medical expenses: $212,622.99; future medical expenses: $310.943.61; past and future noneconomic damages: $8,000,000; and past and future loss of consortium: $1,300,000.

The case is No. RG 13675753 (Second Amended ComplaintSpecial VerdictPunitive Damages Verdict)

Attorneys: Nina Shapirshteyn (Alexander Law Group, LLP) for Florence Kuhlmann & John Perkins. Robert M. Slattery (McNamara, Ney, Beatty, Slattery, Boreges & Ambacher, LLP) for Rakhee N. Shah M.D. Genese K. Dopson (Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP) for Ethicon Endo-Surgery, LLC, Ethicon, Inc., Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Home Health Care Systems, Inc.

Companies: Ethicon Endo-Surgery, LLC; Ethicon, Inc.; Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Johnson & Johnson Home Health Care Systems, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory JuryVerdictsNewsStory DesignManufacturingNews DamagesNews MedicalDevicesNews CaliforniaNews

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