By Jessica Dye
(Reuters) - A jury award of $73.4 million to a woman who said she was injured by a Boston Scientific Corp transvaginal mesh device has been cut to $34.6 million, thanks to a Texas law that caps how much companies must pay in punitive damages.
Last month, jurors in Dallas found Boston Scientific liable for selling a defective Obtryx sling that was implanted in plaintiff Martha Salazar to treat urinary leakage. The jury awarded Salazar approximately $23 million in compensatory damages for actual suffering and $50 million in punitive damages after finding that Boston Scientific had been grossly negligent.
On Thursday, Dallas County Judge Ken Molberg ordered the punitive damages to be slashed to just over $11 million, citing a Texas law that limits damages designed to punish companies to no more than two times a plaintiff’s economic losses, plus up to $750,000 in non-economic losses.
A lawyer for Salazar, David Matthews, said he had anticipated the reduction under state law. “It’s still a very significant finding for a single case,” he said.
Boston Scientific did not immediately return a request for comment. Following the jury verdict last month, the company had said it planned to appeal.
The company has faced three trials so far over its transvaginal mesh products, which are used to treat stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. The first two trials, which were heard in Massachusetts, resulted in wins for Boston Scientific.
The third, Salazar’s case, was the first loss for the medical device manufacturer, which is facing more than 23,000 claims from women in federal and state courts across the country over the devices. Women allege that Boston Scientific sold the device knowing it was defective, causing a variety of injuries, including pain, bleeding and infection.
Thousands of federal lawsuits have been consolidated before a single judge in West Virginia, and additional trials in those cases are scheduled to begin in November.
Boston Scientific is among seven device makers that have faced a wave of claims over similar products. Other defendants include C.R. Bard Inc and Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon Inc unit.
Endo International’s American Medical Systems subsidiary became the first major company to largely bow out of mesh litigation. It announced this week that it has set aside $1.6 billion to settle tens of thousands of cases, ending "substantially all" U.S. mesh cases against it.
The case is Salazar v. Lopez, District Court for Dallas County, No. DC-12-14349.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye in New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Leslie Adler)