California Jury Awards Close to $10 Million to Woman Injured by Defective Ethicon Hemorrhoid Surgery Device

Filed December 16th, 2015 Fran Kelley

A retired San Jose, California police officer was awarded nearly $10 million in a lawsuit over injuries she suffered during hemorrhoid surgery.

The suit was brought against Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc. and J&J Healthcare Systems, Law360 reports, alleging that the Ethicon PPH 03 hemorrhoid stapler misfired, sealing the woman’s anal canal shut. During the January 2012 surgery, the doctor inserted the stapler but had trouble firing it because of the defect. When the doctor was unable to remove the stapler, she fired it again, sealing the woman’s anal canal shut.

After the stapler malfunction, the woman was hospitalized for 21 days. She suffered massive infections and had to undergo a number of surgeries in an attempt to repair her damaged bowel. Despite these surgeries, the woman continues to struggle with the aftermath of the original surgery. She must wear a colostomy bag and she has internal and external scarring, Law360 reports.

The jury found that a defective manufacturing process, which reduced the lubrication applied to the Ethicon stapler, caused the stapler to fire with more force than stated in the specifications. The woman’s attorneys say Ethicon knew about the defect for more than 10 years before it recalled the stapler. About 145,000 staplers sold between 2011 and 2012 were recalled, including the one used in the plaintiff’s surgery.

The lawsuit also named the woman’s surgeon, but the jury said the doctor was not to blame because Ethicon and J&J Healthcare Systems never warned her or other customers about the stapler’s defect, Law360 reports. During the trial, attorneys told the jury that Ethicon failed to inform surgeons about defects that had been reported by other surgeons.

The police officer was awarded $8.5 million and her husband was awarded $1.3 million. The awards cover medical costs, pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of consortium, embarrassment, and humiliation, according to Law 360.

Another person who alleges injuries from an Ethicon stapler—an American expatriate living in Germany—is trying to get his suit heard in a U.S. court. He claims that the staples used in his hemorrhoid surgery in July 2012 in Germany came loose, damaging his rectal wall. He suffered infections and leakage, and underwent 20 additional surgeries because of the injury. Ethicon argues that the suit should not be heard in a U.S. court because virtually all the witnesses and many relevant documents are in Germany, Law360 says.

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