A Dallas jury’s record $1 billion-plus product liability verdict is sending ripples through legal and medical device circles. Recently, jurors in the third bellwether MDL trial returned with a doozy of a verdict for six plaintiffs who suffered serious medical complications from defective Pinnacle hip implants manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopedics subsidiary. The panel of six women and three men deliberated about eight hours before finding J&J and DePuy responsible for negligently designing the implant and failing to warn patients about dangerous health consequences. The verdict includes more than $30 million for injuries, pain and suffering, and more than $1 billion in punitive damages against J&J and DePuy, based on the jury’s finding that the defendants had acted with malice or fraud. The punitive award was the largest against a company in 2016, according to Bloomberg, which noted “such punishment damages are intended to dissuade defendants from continuing sanctioned practices.”
The jury is telling J&J that they better settle these cases soon,” lead attorney Mark Lanier told Bloomberg. All they are doing by trying more of these cases is driving up their costs and driving the company’s reputation into the mud. In addition to Mr. Lanier, the Lanier Law Firm trial team included Alex J. Brown, M. Michelle Carreras, Dr. Robert Leone and Kevin P. Parker. Also orchestrating the win were Richard Arsenault and his team of lawyers from Neblett, Beard and Arsenault, as well as Jayne Conroy and her team from Simmons Hanly Conroy and Khaldoun Baghdadi with Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger
The verdict continues a losing stretch for J&J before U.S. juries. Six of the seven largest product-defect verdicts in the U.S. this year have been against J&J units, including three in lawsuits claiming its talc products cause ovarian cancer. Despite its pledge to appeal Thursday’s verdict, J&J shouldn’t wait for an outcome to approach hip patients with settlement offers, said Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan law professor, who teaches classes about how drugs and medical devices are developed and regulated. They may think they have good defenses to these claims, but they don’t seem to be working with juries,” Gordon said. “There’s no easy way out of these cases now that they have a billion-dollar verdict against them. They better start thinking of how they can settle these claims before the price goes up any more.
Writes Consumer Reports:
The decision marks the latest turn in a medical drama that has seen nearly 100,000 prosthetic devices recalled, led to thousands of hip-replacement lawsuits, and been referred to by a leading medical journal as “one of the biggest disasters in orthopedic history. With the fourth bellwether now set for next September, the question on many minds is whether this record verdict will nudge the defendants toward settlement. Lanier tells Texas Lawyer that Johnson & Johnson would be wise to take note of the trial’s outcome. I’d love to take credit for some great, huge, hard-to-believe win. But the bottom line is, in spite of the media machine that Johnson & Johnson pumps, these are easy cases. This company was flat wrong, they did some horrible things and their best appellate point is, ‘Gee, the jury shouldn’t be allowed to know everything we did.’ That’s pretty pathetic.
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