As the start date to the first federal trial over transvaginal mesh complications approaches, lawyers for a group of plaintiffs accused Johnson & Johnson officials of destroying or misplacing documents related to the medical devices.

In a court filing on Dec. 2, attorneys for a group of women who allege their vaginal mesh failed and caused injuries contend that officials in Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit lost or destroyed potentially hundreds of thousands of documents related to transvaginal mesh devices. Plaintiffs’ lawyers asked that Johnson & Johnson be barred from some lines of defense in upcoming trials over its vaginal mesh products.

“Ethicon’s document destruction has severely prejudiced the plaintiffs for the upcoming bellwether trials,” the court filing states. “Defendants should not benefit from the gaps in plaintiffs’ story that defendant created.”

According to the filing, Johnson & Johnson executives told Ethicon officials to retain documents associated with the development and regulatory approval of transvaginal mesh products, but Ethicon admitted that not everyone complied with that order.

In a Dec. 3 Bloomberg News article, an Ethicon spokesman said the company “never intentionally destroyed, withheld or failed to produce relevant documents.”

The first federal trial stemming from alleged transvaginal mesh complications is scheduled to begin Feb. 10. A state court earlier this year awarded more than $11 million in damages to a woman who claimed a Gynecare Prolift vaginal mesh implant manufactured by Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit caused severe, chronic pain.

Tens of thousands of women have filed claims indicating that transvaginal mesh inserts are prone to moving, eroding or hardening after placement, leading to complications including organ damage, recurring pain, internal bleeding, vaginal scarring, and infections. More than 30,000 vaginal mesh cases have been consolidated for the initial, federal bellwether trial.