Bard Said to Pay $21 Million in First Big Mesh Accord

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C.R. Bard Inc. agreed to pay more than $21 million to resolve over 500 lawsuits alleging its vaginal-mesh implants harmed women, in the first large-scale settlement of claims over the company's devices, people familiar with the accords said. Bard shares rose more than 2 percent.

Bard agreed to pay an average of more than $43,000 per claim to settle several lawyers’ inventories of vaginal-mesh cases, said three people familiar with the settlements who didn’t want to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the accords.

The deal comes as a federal judge in West Virginia has ordered lawyers for Murray Hill, New Jersey-based Bard to prepare for trials of 500 lawsuits alleging the company’s vaginal implants damaged women’s organs and left them in constant pain, according to court filings.

“With all those trials looming, I think Bard is signaling that they are willing to settle if plaintiffs are willing to accept $40,000-plus for their cases,” Carl Tobias, who teaches product-liability law at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said in an interview. “I expect we’ll see some more of these settlements in the near future.”

Bard shares rose 2.9 percent to $151.15 at 3:32 p.m. in New York today.

12,400 Lawsuits

Bard, which reported more than 12,400 suits over the inserts in a July regulatory filing, faces significant financial exposure over the vaginal-mesh claims, Tobias said. Endo International Plc, a Dublin, Ireland-based maker of vaginal-mesh devices, has agreed to pay more than $1.3 billion to resolve most of the more than 30,000 suits filed over its devices.

“It’s our policy not to comment on continuing litigation,” Scott Lowry, a Bard spokesman, said in a phone interview today. As far as the settlement, “it’s already out there,” he said. “We announced it in July” in public filings.

The company said in a July 24 filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it incurred charges in the second quarter of $262.7 million related to the costs for product liability matters, including $4.2 million of litigation-related defense costs in connection with a court order to prepare 200 individual cases for trial. Bard didn’t break down the numbers further in the filing.

FDA Order

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered Bard, Johnson & Johnson, Boston Scientific Corp and other vaginal-mesh makers to study rates of organ damage and complications linked to the devices after thousands of women sued over the implants. The agency also has said implants should be subject to stricter safety requirements.

Doctors inserted more than 70,000 mesh devices in the U.S. in 2010, threading them through incisions in the vagina to fortify pelvic muscles that failed to support internal organs or to treat incontinence, according to court filings.

Women contend some of the devices erode after being implanted, which can cause organ damage, pain and make sexual intercourse painful.

J&J, the world’s biggest maker of health-care products, has pulled four lines of vaginal implants off the global market in the wake of women’s suits.

Some of those cases have been consolidated in Charleston, West Virginia, before U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin, who is overseeing pre-trial information exchanges. Goodwin ordered Bard to prepare a total of 500 cases for trial, but hasn’t said whether they would be heard in his court or sent back to their home courts for trial.

Damage Award

A West Virginia jury last year ordered Bard to pay $2 million in damages to a woman who alleged the company hid flaws within some of its vaginal implants. Bard agreed to settle the case for an undisclosed sum.

Bard and other vaginal-mesh manufacturers began talking with plaintiffs’ lawyers last year about resolving cases over the devices, people familiar with the matter said at the time. The companies and lawyers didn’t succeed in creating a framework for a so-called global settlement of all the cases.

The Bard consolidated cases are In re C.R. Bard Inc. Pelvic Repair System Products Liability Litigation, 10-md-02187, U.S. District Court, Southern District of West Virginia (Charleston).