Johnson & Johnson lost its bid for the U.S. Supreme Court to review a jury verdict in a medical injury case, leaving intact a $302 million award against the New Jersey-based medtech company for misrepresenting the risks of vaginal-mesh implants to California consumers.
The move is a victory for California, the first state to go to trial against the company after thousands of U.S. women sued and some products were recalled, Bloomberg News reported. The court made no comment in turning away the appeal by J&J and its Ethicon unit.
J&J contended the company wasn’t given fair notice that it could face such steep penalties for using marketing materials it says weren’t proven to have reached consumers, according to Bloomberg.
“Without clarity from the Supreme Court, the patchwork of vague state statutes will continue to result in uneven, unclear, and unfair enforcement that harms both consumers and businesses,” J&J said in an emailed statement.
California courts found that Ethicon minimized or omitted the health risks of its transvaginal pelvic mesh products in its instructions and marketing to doctors and patients. But noting there was no proof Ethicon made deceptive oral statements about its devices in one-on-one conversations with doctors at lunches and health fairs, a California appeals court reduced the penalty by $42 million.
In 2019, the FDA ordered mesh manufacturers to stop selling the devices for transvaginal repair of pelvic organ prolapse, noting the “benefits do not outweigh the risks.”
Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers backed the appeal, saying states are abusing their unfair competition laws to impose millions of dollars in penalties for practices that don’t cause any harm, Bloomberg wrote.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta urged the Supreme Court to reject the appeal. State officials said the company intentionally concealed information on serious risk and complications while mounting an aggressive marketing campaign, according to Bloomberg.
The company has settled claims by 45 other states and the District of Columbia. J&J said in October that a trial in a lawsuit by Kentucky is set to start in May, Bloomberg reported.