(Adds statement from California)
By Brendan Pierson
Feb 21 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday let stand a $302 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit brought by the state of California accusing the company of concealing the risks of its pelvic mesh products.
The court, following its usual practice, did not give any reason for refusing to hear J&J’s appeal.
J&J had argued to the Supreme Court that state consumer protection laws like California’s are too vague, exposing companies to unpredictable state lawsuits. Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce backed the company.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta in a statement called the court’s decision “a definitive win in our fight for justice.”
J&J said in a statement that the Supreme Court’s rejection of the case will lead to continued “uneven, unclear and unfair enforcement that harms both consumers and businesses.”
California sued New Jersey-based J&J in 2016 in San Diego Superior Court. The case stemmed from a multistate investigation into J&J subsidiary Ethicon Inc’s marketing of pelvic mesh devices, which are surgical implants that were used to treat incontinence and other conditions.
J&J and other mesh makers were already facing numerous private lawsuits by women who said they suffered pain, urinary problems, bleeding and other serious injuries from the devices. The lawsuits have resulted in more than $8 billion in settlements.
J&J, which stopped selling pelvic mesh in 2012, has denied wrongdoing. In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered all pelvic mesh devices off the market.
Later that year, J&J and Ethicon reached a $117 million settlement with 41 states and the District of Columbia to resolve claims that they concealed the products’ risks.
California did not take part in that settlement, and its lawsuit resulted in a $344 million judgment in January 2020 following a non-jury trial.
A judge found that Ethicon’s marketing materials about the mesh devices, and its instructions for using them, deceived doctors and patients by failing to disclose serious risks, violating the state’s unfair competition and false advertising laws.
A California appellate court last year cut $42 million off the award. (Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Deepa Babington and Bill Berkrot)