Bard Said to Pay $200 Million to Settle Vaginal-Mesh Cases

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C.R. Bard Inc. agreed to pay more than $200 million to resolve at least 3,000 cases by women injured by the company’s vaginal-mesh inserts, five people familiar with the accord said.

The settlement resolves about a fifth of the outstanding suits related to the implants, which bolster sagging organs and treat incontinence. For at least five years, women have said the devices shrink once they’re implanted, damaging organs and causing crippling pain.

Under the accord, the women will get about $67,000 per case, according to the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. While that tops the $43,000 average payout Bard agreed to in a smaller deal last year, it’s much less than the $2 million a West Virginia jury awarded a woman in 2013.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin in Charleston, West Virginia, who is overseeing vaginal-mesh cases, has urged Bard to consider large-scale settlements given the risk of owing billions of dollars in jury awards. The company settled the West Virginia case for an undisclosed sum, and in June a Bard lawyer told the court they were making progress toward resolving the cases.

Bard said in court filings its devices are safe and effective. Scott Lowry, a company spokesman, didn’t immediately return an e-mail and phone call seeking comment on the settlements.

Verdict Risk

“The Bard folks finally decided to listen to Judge Goodwin and settle before they get hit with a bunch of multimillion-dollar verdicts that could bankrupt the company,” said Carl Tobias, who teaches product-liability law at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Bard, based in Murray Hill, New Jersey, added $337 million to its $660 million reserve for product-liability cases while acknowledging it had resolved 2,800 cases over “Women’s Health Products,” according to a July 24 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“There’s still a quite a lot of liability given they’ve only settled about a third of the cases, but I think the company is well enough financially to not have an issue settling these cases,” Jason Wittes, an analyst with Brean Capital, said in an e-mailed statement.

The company is discussing settlements with lawyers for other women who blame Bard’s mesh for their injuries. “We’ve been talking” but haven’t reached a deal, Joe Rice, a South Carolina-based lawyer, said in an interview.

Organ Damage

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered Bard, Johnson & Johnson, Boston Scientific Corp. and other vaginal-mesh makers in 2012 to study rates of organ damage linked to the mesh devices.

The devices are threaded into the vagina to fortify pelvic muscles or treat incontinence. Women contend the devices are poorly designed and contain materials that are unsafe for use in humans. Some require multiple surgeries to remove.

The company began pushing for large-scale settlements this year after hiring Nina Gussak, a Philadelphia-based lawyer with Pepper Hamilton LLP. She’s a products-liability veteran and helped GlaxoSmithKline Plc in 2012 settle claims tied to a diabetes drug. Gussak didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

In May, a Delaware jury ordered Boston Scientific to pay $100 million to a woman who sued. Boston Scientific, which has settled some cases, said its devices are safe. Johnson & Johnson has also settled a handful of cases.

The 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).

(Updates with analyst’s comment in eighth paragraph.)
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