Articles Posted in Jury Verdicts

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On June 12, 2017, a jury in New Orleans reached a verdict in favor of defendants in the second Xarelto bellwether trial. This verdict follows a defense verdict in the first bellwether trial. Let’s take a closer look.

The Second Xarelto Bellwether Trial  

Neoplastin PT Blood Test for Xarelto PatientsTo recap briefly, Xarelto (rivaroxaban) was first approved by the FDA for sale in 2011. As an anticoagulant, it was supposed to prevent pulmonary embolism (PE), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), strokes, and other serious conditions. And it was easier to take than warfarin. In studies, however, Xarelto caused a higher rate of complications from internal bleeding; but unlike other anticoagulant drugs, there is no “antidote” for stopping internal bleeding in patients. People bleed and often can’t stop bleeding.

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Jury Verdict in First Xarelto Bellwether Trial

More than 18,000 lawsuits have been filed against the drug manufacturers of Xarelto over internal bleeding injuries. Two weeks ago the first bellwether case in the Xarelto multidistrict litigation was tried to a jury in Louisiana. On May 3, 2017, that jury rendered a verdict in favor of Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and parent company Johnson & Johnson. After a seven day trial, the jury found in favor of defendants on one narrow issue: that the plaintiff did not prove his claim that the drug makers failed to give adequate instructions to the physician on the safe use of Xarelto; specifically, the plaintiff argued that drug makers failed to give instructions to doctors about the need to perform a blood-clotting test on Xarelto patients before prescribing the drug.

Although a setback for the plaintiffs, this narrow decision makes me confident there is “plenty of game left” in the overall Xarelto litigation. I do not believe the Boudreaux case adequately represents so many of the remaining claims against Bayer, Janssen, and J&J.

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Depuy Pinnacle AppealNow it’s the plaintiffs’ turn. The five victims of the Depuy Pinnacle artificial hip have answered the appeal of Depuy Orthopaedics and Johnson & Johnson in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. And as they did at trial, the plaintiffs have come out fighting.

Recap of Depuy’s Appeal

A few weeks ago I wrote about the appeal brought by Depuy and Johnson & Johnson after a Texas jury awarded $502 million dollars to five plaintiffs. You can read about the Defendants’ appeal here. But to recap, Depuy and J&J argue that they were unfairly prejudiced by the plaintiffs’ team aggressive tactics at trial. They argue that Defendants are entitled to a new trial because the plaintiffs’ team had “a strategy” to “inflame the jury through highly prejudicial evidence and wholly inappropriate argument.”

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Depuy Pinnacle MDL TexasImagine going to sleep the night after making the decision to strip five hundred million dollars from six families. I imagine it would be unsettling. On Tuesday, Judge Ed Kinkeade, a federal judge in Texas overseeing the Depuy Pinnacle MDL, made the decision to cut $500,000,000.00 from a jury award presented to six families after a grueling ten-week trial last fall. You can read about the trial and the jury’s verdict here. In that post I wrote that the jury’s verdict was “staggering,” and it was. It may be more staggering that a judge, less than a month later, would wipe out half a billion dollars of the jury’s award.

“Single-Digit Multipliers”

On January 3, 2017, Judge Kinkeade issued his post-trial court order reducing the amount of punitive damages awarded to the six families, writing that “constitutional considerations limit the amount a plaintiff may recover in punitive damages.” The relevant portion of the Order states:

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Texas Depuy Pinnacle Hip TrialStaggering. It’s really the only word for it. Yesterday a Texas jury awarded six plaintiffs over one billion dollars for injuries sustained following the failure of the Depuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal artificial hip. And that comes out to more than $170,000,000.00 per plaintiff. The verdict was handed down last night following ten weeks of punishing trial.

This trial was the third “bellwether” case in the Depuy Pinnacle MDL (multidistrict litigation). The first Pinnacle bellwether trial ended in a defense verdict, which means the jury did not find negligence on the part of the defendants, Depuy Orthopaedics and Johnson & Johnson, and therefore the plaintiffs received no compensation. The second bellwether trial resulted in a huge $502 million dollar verdict for five plaintiffs, which I wrote about here. In fact, much of the speculation about this third bellwether trial was whether the plaintiffs’ team could put on the same powerful case that they did in the second bellwether trial, or whether the $500 million verdict in March was simply a bizarre outlier, one of those remarkable unicorn verdicts that come along once and never again.

Today, the $500 million dollar verdict seems modest compared to yesterday’s jury verdict. Plainly, juries are sending a huge message to Depuy and J&J that they hurt many people when they marketed and sold the Depuy Pinnacle Hip.

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Depuy Pinnacle Jury AwardIn March 2016 five people injured by the Depuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal artificial hip scored a huge courtroom victory. In that case a Texas jury awarded five plaintiffs $502,043,908.00 for injuries suffered by the failure of the Depuy Pinnacle hip. That figure was divided in different ways to the five injured people. Of that amount, $360,000,000.00 was awarded by the jury for punitive damages. The jury concluded that the Pinnacle hip sold by Depuy was defective and that Depuy knew about the flaws but did not adequately warn patients and their doctors of the risks. Like I said, this was a huge win. Unfortunately, the punitive damages award did not last long.

Judge Forced to Reduce Punitive Damages Award

Punitive damages are money damages, separate from compensatory damages, which are awarded by a jury and which are intended to punish or deter a bad-acting defendant and others from engaging in similar conduct. Judge Kinkeade, who is the federal judge presiding over the Depuy Pinnacle multi-district litigation (MDL), stated that he was bound by a Texas statute which puts a limit or “cap” on the amount of punitive damages a jury can award. Thus, Judge Kinkeade was required by law to reduce the punitive damages award, which a jury of twelve individuals, after a 42 day trial, thought was appropriate.

Thank You, Tort Reform!

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Product Liability Appeal

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, your lawsuit ain’t over till it’s over.

In a product liability case, most lawsuits end in a settlement. The plaintiff and the defendants work the case for a period of time, and eventually they sit down and hammer out a resolution to end the case. However, some product liability cases make it all the way to trial. I have written about jury verdicts in medical device and drug cases often on this site. Recently, for example, a young boy and his family won a whopping $70,000,000.00 verdict against Johnson & Johnson based on the boy’s disfigurement caused by the drug Risperdal. In that case, as in so many others, you may think that after years of litigation and after winning a complex jury trial that the plaintiff can finally leave the court system behind and get on with his life. But the case, sadly, may just be getting started. When medical device manufacturers and drug makers lose a big case with a large money award, expect them to throw the kitchen sink at you after the jury reaches its verdict. Let’s look a few things a defense team could do if it loses a big product liability case.

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They say justice delayed is justice denied. Apparently Judge Kinkeade in the Depuy Pinnacle Artificial Hip MDL thinks so. On June 10, 2016, Judge Kinkeade denied Depuy’s motion to delay all future trials until the company completes its appeal of a massive $500 million jury verdict.

Depuy Motion to Stay DeniedDepuy Orthopaedics and its parent company Johnson & Johnson filed their “motion to stay” on May 24, 2016. They asked the court to delay all further trials in the Depuy Pinnacle MDL until an appellate court rules on their appellate issues. (It is very common for a company in any case to appeal a trial verdict when the jury awards significant damages to the plaintiffs.) Depuy claimed there were significant errors made at the trial. Depuy also argued that the decision in the appeal could have “far-reaching implications” on how future Pinnacle cases are tried. Defendants claimed the “grounds for appeal are strong” and that they “acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing” of the devices.

Judge Kinkeade, who presides over the Depuy Pinnacle MDL in Dallas, Texas, denied the motion to stay the trials. In his order Judge Kinkeade selected seven bellwether cases to be tried beginning September 6, 2016. You can read that Order here.

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Depuy Seeks Delays in Pinnacle Hip TrialsA request by Depuy Orthopaedics Inc. to delay more trials concerning its Depuy Pinnacle hip implants is pending in the federal court in charge of thousands of cases against the company. The request came from Depuy on May 24. Depuy asks the Court to hold off on further trials until an appeal of one large case tried in March is resolved. That case, which I wrote about here and here, resulted in a stunning $502 million verdict for five people injured by the defective artificial hip components. So Depuy is plainly motivated to delay, if not overturn, the award. If the request is granted it will take much longer for other plaintiffs to have their cases tried, as complex appeals like this one can take years to resolve. As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied. I hope federal judge Ed Kinkeade in Texas denies Depuy’s motion. These remaining cases deserve their day in court.

Depuy and the other defendants claim their planned appeal could have “far-reaching implications” on how future cases are tried. Defendants claim the “grounds for appeal are strong” and that they “acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing” of the devices.

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(Part 6)

Woman Suffering From Transvaginal Mesh ImplantLet’s get back to a look at recent developments with transvaginal mesh lawsuits. In two big victories recently, a Georgia jury awarded $4.4 million to a woman injured by transvaginal mesh, and a New Jersey appeals court upheld an $11.11 million dollar jury verdict.

Transvaginal mesh (TVM) is a plastic mesh product that has been implanted in women for many years to support weakened vaginal walls. Many women suffer from pelvic organ prolapse or stress urinary incontinence, and makers of TVM have insisted that TVM could repair these medical problems. Unfortunately, not long after TVM was marketed and sold, women began complaining of serious health problems, including erosion of the vaginal wall, infections, painful sex, and bladder perforation. The lawsuits followed.

Now let’s take a look at a recent jury trial and an appeal decision of an earlier jury verdict.

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