Articles Posted in Multidistrict Litigation

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Opioids: Are Individual Lawsuits Imminent?
Have you been directly affected by the opioid epidemic in America? Millions of people have become addicted to these powerful drugs—and for many, that addiction started with a legally prescribed medication to treat legitimate pain. One report estimated that more than 59,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016—and most of those were caused by opioids. The President has even declared opioid abuse a national public health emergency.

I’ve written before in this space about the opioid epidemic and the massive opioid litigation gearing up across America as well as the establishment of centralized multidistrict litigation. So far, these cases primarily involve state and local governments suing opioid manufacturers and distributors for their roles in the opioid crisis.

No doubt governments have suffered financial losses from the skyrocketing number of overdoses requiring emergency treatment. In North Carolina alone, the cost of opioid-related accidental overdose deaths was estimated at $1.3 billion in 2015.

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Calculating DePuy Pinnacle Jury AwardsIn the last three DePuy Pinnacle artificial hip bellwether trials, three juries awarded the following amounts of money: $502,000,000.00, $1,041,311,648.17, and $247,000,000.00. That’s a total of $1.79 billion dollars. The juries awarded plaintiffs compensatory damages (or actual damages) and punitive damages (to “punish” the defendant companies). Remember that these juries settled on these huge amounts of money based on their findings in three separate trials that DePuy and Johnson & Johnson were liable for design and manufacturing defects, that the defendants failed to warn plaintiffs about the risks of the defective artificial hip, and that defendants acted recklessly, intentionally, and even maliciously in marketing and selling the flawed DePuy Pinnacle hip. These last findings permitted the juries to award punitive damages.

In the bellwether trial in March 2016, a jury awarded more than $500,000,000.00 to five plaintiffs. On December 1, 2016 a jury awarded more than one billion dollars to six plaintiffs and four spouses. And finally, just two weeks ago, a jury awarded six plaintiffs (and four spouses) $247,000,000.00 in compensatory and punitive damages. Compared to the total awards, the amounts awarded to the spouses of the hip victims were modest, and appear to have totaled around $6,700,000.00.

Let’s do a little math:

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On November 16, 2017, yet another Texas jury Huge Verdict in Fourth DePuy Pinnacle Trialdelivered a huge verdict to the victims of the DePuy Pinnacle artificial hip. In this fourth bellwether trial, the jury awarded $247,000,000.00 to six plaintiffs and their spouses. According to news reports, after a two-month, hard-fought trial, the jury found that DePuy Orthopaedics and parent company Johnson & Johnson were liable to plaintiffs for the Pinnacle’s design and manufacturing defects. But the jury went further, concluding that the actions of the companies were fraudulent and deceptive, and that they had acted recklessly and maliciously in manufacturing, selling, and promoting the flawed products.

These last terms have special meaning in law: findings of fraud, deception, recklessness, and malice indicate that the companies went beyond mere negligence, that the defendants misbehaved intentionally or with a reckless disregard to the fact that their actions would harm innocent people. Because of these special findings, the plaintiffs were entitled to receive “punitive damages” from DePuy and J&J, which are money damages intended to punish defendants for especially bad behavior.

The jury awarded $90 million dollars in punitive damages to be paid by J&J, and $78 million in punitive damages to be paid by DePuy. That’s $168 million in total punitive damages. It is a lot of money.

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A former client wrote a review of my work helping him through his metal-on-metal artificial hip case. I am very grateful for the review and would like to share it:

Former Client Writes Review of Attorney Clay HodgesI had one shot to even the score. I trusted Clay Hodges with my life. Mr. Hodges and his paralegal were spot-on with every aspect of my case. Throughout the process, beginning to end, I felt confident I had made the right choice. I needed a team that would press my rights swiftly and with results. I feel that Mr. Hodges’s experience, persistence and character led to these maximum results. Trustworthiness, operational expertise and great results . . . I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

R.N.

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Fourth Depuy Pinnacle Hip Bellwether Trial in Dallas Texas
By all accounts, each of the three bellwether trials in the DePuy Pinnacle artificial hip MDL has been contentious. In the fourth bellwether trial, which should wrap up this week, the litigants have been in a fierce battle again. The most recent skirmish has centered on allegations by plaintiffs suggesting that lawyers for DePuy Orthopaedics may have been trying to influence the testimony of a witness for the plaintiffs.

I want to share with you the affidavit submitted by Dr. David Shein, a surgeon who treated three of the six plaintiffs involved in the current trial. Dr. Shein was once expected to be called as a fact witness in the case by the plaintiffs.

Affidavit of David Shein, M.D.

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Xarelto case underway in PhiladelphiaThe first Xarelto trial is underway in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The cases in Philadelphia state court are separate from the federal court Xarelto multidistrict litigation situated in Louisiana. I have written about Xarelto often on this website, and you can read more about the medication and the lawsuits that followed here. The cases in the Court of Common Pleas are very similar to the MDL cases, and most of the cases involved allegations of uncontrollable internal bleeding. The Philadelphia state court mass tort program has been taking Xarelto cases since 2014, and currently there are more than 1,500 cases filed there. More cases are being filed each week, in Pennsylvania and in the Louisiana MDL.

The first of these “Philadelphia cases” went to trial this week. For the plaintiffs in both state and federal court, a win would be most welcome, as plaintiffs in the first three MDL bellwether cases lost.

First Philadelphia Xarelto Trial Begins

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Diabetes Drug InvokanaDiabetes is a serious condition that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar. Over 29 million Americans currently suffer from the disease. Of the newly diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults, around 95% are for Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body produces enough insulin but cannot use insulin properly. Type 2 diabetes results in high blood sugar levels which can cause long-term health problems. So what does all this mean? From the perspective of pharmaceutical companies, it means there is a massive market for Type 2 diabetes drugs. Enter the latest diabetes “wonder drug,” Invokana.   Continue reading →

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Last Thursday a jury in Chicago found that AbbVie, Inc., the manufacturers of the testosterone product Androgel, must pay the plaintiff, Jeffrey Konrad, over $140,000,000.00 for injuries he suffered after using the company’s testosterone product. The jury found that AbbVie did not adequately test the testosterone roll-on gel product and misrepresented its safety to patients and doctors.

The Second Testosterone Bellwether Trial

Testosterone MDL in ChicagoMr. Konrad was in his late forties when he began using Androgel in 2010. He was prescribed testosterone to treat a decrease in his testosterone levels. Two months later he suffered a heart attack. He filed suit years later, alleging that AbbVie knew about the link between testosterone use and heart attacks but sold the product anyway, and without sufficient warnings. The jury did not find that Mr. Konrad proved the connection between his use of Androgel and his heart attack. Other factors, such as Mr. Konrad’s obesity, high blood pressure, and family history, could have caused his heart attack. Nevertheless, the jury found that AbbVie was liable for damages based on AbbVie’s negligence and misrepresentation.

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Hydrocodone, Opioid Epidemic
I blogged previously about the United States opioid crisis and how many local and state governments were looking to the courts to help deal with it. Specifically, these governments have brought lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of opioids.

When we last wrote about the opioid crisis, I explained how these lawsuits had only just begun. The following post is an update on how these lawsuits are progressing. But before we get to that, let’s discuss why opioids are generating these lawsuits.

The Legal Basis for Suing Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors

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Some of my clients have been asking me what is going on with the fourth Depuy Pinnacle bellwether trial. Non-clients have also been calling to inquire about the status of the trial. Did it start this week? Was it postponed? What is the deal with Depuy and Johnson & Johnson trying to stop the trial? Let’s take a quick look:

Fourth Bellwether Trial Underway 

Depuy Pinnacle MDL in Texas
The short answer is yes, the fourth bellwether trial began on Monday (September 18, 2017). Six plaintiffs injured by the Depuy Pinnacle hip (and four spouses) are bringing their claims against defendants in Dallas, Texas before Judge Kinkeade. You can read about previous Pinnacle bellwether trials and their huge jury awards here and here.