Attorneys representing clients injured by Alloderm grafts suffered a blow recently, when a New Jersey judge rejected arguments that the mesh product suffered from a defective design. Judge Mayer issued a ruling stating that the Plaintiffs' arguments that better, safer alternatives to the Alloderm mesh product did not mean that Alloderm had a defect in its design. Representatives for four patients had argued that, under New Jersey law, the Alloderm mesh used in their incisional hernia surgeries was defectively designed and unfit for use in abdominal hernia repairs due to thinning and stretching. In each case the Alloderm had failed, resulting in hernia recurrence and more surgeries.
While this case was not good news for Alloderm injury attorneys, the dismissal of the design claims was based on New Jersey law, and the failure by the Plaintiffs to provide evidence that a better alternative was known and available at the time of the victim's surgeries. Alloderm victims in other states, with different rules regarding what constitutes a defective design in medical devices, may still prevail on such claims. Many of the open lawsuits also accuse Lifecell, the manufacturer and promoter of Alloderm, of illegally promoting Alloderm for "off-label" use to drum up more business. While never specifically approved for hernia surgery, attorneys for the victims maintain that Lifecell encouraged such off-brand usage by physicians and surgeons, and knowingly covered up information that the Alloderm grafts were at risk of bulging and stretching, resulting in further hernias and additional complications. Alloderm has not been recalled yet, and the manufacturer continues to promote it for use in surgical repairs, including hernias. Further cases are scheduled for trial later in the year.