December 15, 2015: A Northern California jury hit Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon with $70 million in punitive damages for hiding defects in its PPH 03 hemorrhoid stapler, just days after awarding a former San Jose police officer $10 million in compensatory damages who accidentally had her anus stapled shut during hemorrhoid surgery in 2012.
Florence Kuhlmann, a former San Jose police officer, alleged in her lawsuit that her surgeon inserted the PPH 03 stapler into her during surgery to treat her hemorrhoids, but couldn’t fire the device due to a defect. In attempting to remove the stapler from Kuhlmann, her surgeon fired the stapler again, which sealed Kuhlmann’s anus shut. As a result, Kuhlmann was left with a life-long need for a colostomy bag.
Kuhlmann’s attorneys presented evidence at trial that showed that Ethicon knew of the stapler’s defects, which caused the device to misfire, for over a decade and did nothing to change the device’s design or manufacturing process to eliminate the risk of harm to patients like Kuhlmann. Ethicon, through a spokesperson, said it would appeal the verdict. The case is Kuhlmann v. Endo-Surgery, Inc. and J&J Healthcare Systems, case number 13675753 in Alameda County Superior Court.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective medical device, contact the experienced products liability attorneys at the Law Offices of Brian D. Witzer for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights.