The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Indiana woman Patricia Hammons had jurisdiction to sue Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon for injuries she sustained from a pelvic implant. This permitted the $12.5 million verdict she was awarded to be upheld as well.
Hammons received the pelvic implant in 2009 after she was diagnosed with “prolapse,” which the lower court described as a disorder affecting muscles and tissues supporting the pelvic organs. Hammons required three surgeries to remove the problematic implant, which had penetrated her bladder wall as well. Her resulting injuries have caused ongoing incontinence and pain during intercourse.
Hammons’ claim for Pennsylvania’s jurisdiction over this case rested on the fact that the mesh in the pelvic implant is produced in Pennsylvania. Her case was originally moved to federal court on the theory that the case was better suited to a court handling the intersection of laws across multiple states, but the federal court sent Hammons’ case back to the Pennsylvania courts.
The Superior Court, Pennsylvania’s intermediate appellate court, had ruled in Hammons’ favor in multiple respects, including that there were safer alternatives to the device Hammons received, the manufacturer did not properly warn physicians of the dangers of the device, and the amount of damages Hammons received was appropriate. $7 million of the damages awarded to Hammons were punitive.
The only question brought before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was whether the Superior Court was right to hold that the court was indeed permitted to hear this case under legal rules regarding jurisdiction. By upholding the Superior Court ruling on jurisdiction, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the other holdings by the Superior Court that were in Hammons’ favor.