Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) wants the federal judge overseeing thousands of pelvic mesh lawsuits to force the plaintiffs to prove they have a valid claim, alleging a campaign of telephone solicitation aimed at generating more cases.
"Women across the nation are receiving unsolicited phone calls from strangers who are seeking – or, more disturbingly, already know – their very personal medical information. These individuals, who on some occasions may call as often as 50 times a month, try to entice each woman into filing a lawsuit, oftentimes disregarding whether she has an injury or even had a mesh implant at all. In an apparent effort to legitimize their message or engender the woman’s trust, some callers have gone so far as to say that they are associated with the FDA or with Johnson & Johnson," the company wrote in a court filing.
"What is happening here is wrong. And the fallout includes a compromised judicial system, exploitation of women and their federally (HIPPA) protected private health information, and undermined doctor-patient relationships," Johnson & Johnson argued, according to the filing.
The company wants Judge Joseph Goodwin, who’s overseeing the multi-district litigation that covers 10s of thousands of product liability lawsuits, to force plaintiffs to prove that they have a legitimate claim. And it wants Goodwin to force the plaintiffs’ lawyers to testify under oath and in front of the judge "to determine who may be profiting from the unethical and illegal direct solicitation of women and whether further investigation of others is warranted," according to the filing.
“With the court’s help, the parties can take steps to identify claims that should be dismissed because the plaintiff cannot demonstrate she ever had an injury or even had an Ethicon pelvic mesh device implanted at all. These steps also should help to curtail the tactics that have violated women’s rights, put women at risk, and jeopardized the integrity of the judicial process," J&J wrote. "It is important that women bringing non-fraudulent claims have an opportunity to have their claims presented in court. At the same time, production of basic information supporting the claims is required to weed out fraudulent or unmeritorious suits."
The company provided a transcript of a cold call allegedly received by someone looking to file false cases:
Caller: Ma’am, yeah, we are the – yeah, because we have the criteria here to receive this medical compensation for the bladder sling surgery and for the mesh implant surgery, and I know you never have done this surgery before, but still as a good human being what I can do, I can provide information about the bladder sling surgery and you just have to share this information only two times on the call, I send to my counselor and then after to my attorney, that’s it, ma’am, apart from that you doesn’t have to do anything to receive your compensation. Okay?
Female Recipient of Call [FRC]: But I’ve never had a bladder sling or mesh surgery.
Caller: I know, [FRC] you never had done this surgery, but if you are interested to receive 30 up to 40 thousand dollars, you just have to tell my compensation officer that I had a bladder sling surgery and after that I had a complication.
[FRC]: I know, but –
Caller: So I will tell my –-
[FRC]: That would be lying though.
Caller: I do understand, but you have to tell a lie if you want to get the 30 up to 40 thousand dollars –
Caller: No one will give you 30, 40 thousand dollars like that. You have to tell a lie for that.
[FRC]: Right, but that’s illegal.
Caller: Can you do this?
[FRC]: No, I will not do that.
Caller: Can you?
[FRC]: That is ridiculous, that is illegal.
Caller: Okay, [FRC] bye bye.
[FRC]: So you are – I mean this is fraud.
Caller: What happened, miss, you don’t want to lie for the 30 to 40 thousand dollars?
[FRC]: No, I don’t want to lie. I mean I have morals. This is fraud, this is illegal, so…