Texas Jury Orders Johnson & Johnson to Pay More than $1 Billion

Texas Jury Orders Johnson & Johnson to Pay More than $1 Billion

Pinnacle Hip Implants Found to Be Defective

On December 1, 2016, a federal jury in Dallas returned a verdict against pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, DePuy Orthopaedics, holding that the company’s Pinnacle hip implant was negligently designed, that the company knew of risks associated with the product, and that the company failed to adequately warn consumers of those risks. The jury awarded six plaintiffs damages in excess of $1 billion-$32 million in compensatory damages and $1 billion in punitive damages. Johnson & Johnson had rejected a $1.8 million dollar settlement offer before trial.

The plaintiffs, who are California residents, say they suffered serious injury after receiving the DePuy product, including bone erosion and tissue death. They allege that Johnson & Johnson and DePuy falsely advertised that the Pinnacle hip implant, with its metal-on-metal design, was more durable and had a greater life than competing products that use plastic or ceramic parts.

Though plaintiff’s attorneys laud the verdict as a “loud and clear” message that Johnson & Johnson needs to address the legal issues related to the Pinnacle implant, most legal experts don’t see any movement any time soon. Attorneys for both companies say they will appeal the verdict and will ask the appeals court to suspend any further trials related to the hip implant.

The company faces more than 8,000 lawsuits tied to the device, all of which have been consolidated in the federal court in Texas. Last week’s verdict was the third “test case” regarding liability for the Pinnacle. Johnson & Johnson were found not liable in the first case, but were hit with a $500 million jury award in the second trial. That verdict was subsequently reduced to $151 million, based on Texas law.

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Huge Verdicts Won’t Spur Settlement Talks In J&J Hip MDL

By Jess Krochtengel

Law360, Dallas (December 2, 2016, 9:52 PM EST) — Although a Texas federal jury hit Johnson & Johnson with a more than $1 billion verdict in the latest bellwether trial over the company’s Pinnacle hip implants, fruitful settlement talks aren t likely to happen before the Fifth Circuit weighs in on J&J’s lengthy list of complaints about trial rulings, MDL experts say.

Pressure on J&J to find a way out of the thousands of remaining cases in the multidistrict litigation may be mounting after a jury on Thursday hit J&J and subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. for a total of more than $1 billion in punitive damages and more than $32 million in compensatory damages to six hip implant recipients and some of their spouses. That followed a $502 million verdict in the second bellwether, later reduced to about $150 million, after a defense win in the first bellwether trial.

Yet a global settlement in the MDL is unlikely because J&J doesn t think the bellwether trials have given it a fair estimate of what each plaintiff’s case is worth, lawyers say. J&J has said the verdicts in the two latest trials provide “no guidance on the merits of the overall Pinnacle litigation” because of what it has argued are deeply flawed and unfair procedural and evidentiary rulings from the MDL judge.

“It seems like a situation where you couldn t be farther away from the parties both being in a position to have productive settlement discussions,” said John Sullivan of Cozen & O Connor LLP. “I can t imagine a less likely scenario for settlement than here.”

About 9,300 lawsuits involving the Pinnacle hip system’s Ultamet metal-on-metal implant have been filed in state and federal courts around the country, most of which are consolidated in an MDL presided over by U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade in Dallas.

Plaintiffs generally allege DePuy and J&J pushed to market a poorly designed product that injured them after friction between the device’s metal socket and metal ball head caused microscopic particles of metal to shed into their bodies. J&J has maintained it acted appropriately and responsibly in the development, testing and marketing of the Ultamet product.

The first bellwether trial, involving a single plaintiff from Montana, ended in a defense win. The second bellwether consolidated five plaintiffs from Texas, who won a $502 million verdict that was later reduced to about $150 million under a Texas law that caps punitive damages.

In the third bellwether, jurors deliberated for less than a day following a two-month trial before awarding each of six California plaintiffs between $4 million and $6 million in actual damages. The jury also found each plaintiff entitled to $84 million from DePuy and $84 million from J&J, bringing the total damages award to more than $1.04 billion.

Diane Lifton of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP said her immediate reaction to hearing about the $1 billion verdict or any verdict of comparable size is to look to see what evidence was in front of the jury and what the companies concerns are about that evidence.

“It suggests to me that there may be evidentiary concerns about what went before the jury,” Lifton said.

In both the second and third bellwether trials, evidentiary rulings prompted multiple mistrial motions from J&J and DePuy, which have suggested to the Fifth Circuit that Judge Kinkeade allowed a virtual free-for-all in the second trial, allowing in prejudicial and inflammatory evidence. The plaintiffs have told the Fifth Circuit the verdict in the second trial was a reflection of a jury holding companies accountable for prioritizing profits above patient safety, not the result of a flood of prejudicial evidence.

In July, the Fifth Circuit rejected J&J’s request for an expedited appeal of the second bellwether and the appellate court also declined J&J’s request to stop the MDL court from holding the third trial while the appeal was pending.

“I think until the appellate issues are resolved with respect to the evidence presented to the jury, it will be difficult to reach a global resolution of the cases,” Lifton said.

In the third trial, controversial evidence included the mention of an $84 million deferred prosecution agreement J&J entered to end an investigation into alleged kickbacks. That piece of evidence and a witness subsequent testimony that J&J paid the settlement to make a “headache” go away played a central role in the plaintiffs closing argument and appears to be directly reflected in the jury’s $84 million-per-plaintiff punitive damages award.

Sullivan said before it considers settling the MDL, J&J will want the Fifth Circuit’s take on whether evidence like the deferred prosecution agreement can be admitted during trial. The company has a valid concern that prejudicial evidence without a tangible relationship to the injuries sustained by the plaintiffs could unduly ratchet up a jury verdict, he said.

“It’s just a concern when you see a $1 billion verdict,” Sullivan said. “It’s hard not to seriously consider whether those issues did affect the verdict.”

Max Kennerly of Kennerly Loutey LLC, who represents plaintiffs in product liability and medical malpractice cases, brushed off the complaints about the bellwether trials as “bluster” from J&J that won t ultimately stop the parties from settling the MDL. Even if it genuinely believes it was prejudiced at the bellwethers, the company should still act rationally, as it did when it reached a $2.5 billion global settlement related to DePuy’s ASR line of hip implants, he said.

“Johnson & Johnson always has an excuse for why they can’t begin reasonable settlement discussions,” Kennerly said. “They have an excuse for why they can’t settle the Ethicon mesh cases, an excuse for why they can’t settle the Risperdal cases and now an excuse for why they can’t settle the Pinnacle cases. It’s all bluster. At some point, they’ll either come to their senses, or their shareholders will make management come to their senses.”

Lawyers say even taking the splashy punitive award out of the picture, the jury verdict in the third bellwether still won t serve as a strong platform to launch settlement talks.

The jury awarded $4 million to plaintiffs who had one hip implant, plus their individual medical bills, and awarded $6 million plus medical bills to plaintiffs who had two implants.

Lifton said that kind of result makes it impossible to discern which aspects of the plaintiffs individual circumstances affected the jury, so it’s difficult to use them as a basis for valuing the thousands of remaining cases.

“Another concern one might consider with these verdicts all being the same size is that a case involving more challenging facts can affect the outcome of a case with less significant damages they all get taken along for the ride and it’s impossible to tease out what the jury’s reaction was to each part of the case and each scenario,” Lifton said. “That’s why you ll hear arguments among the defense bar against these kinds of consolidated trials.”

Yet Michael Walsh of Strasburger & Price LLP said that although the compensatory damages awards to each plaintiff were probably too high, they are not so unreasonable that they can t be the basis for the beginning of a settlement discussion so long as the punitive awards remain off the table. The MDL docket is so massive, he said, the defense has to face the question of at what point do they try to clear it out and leave trials for cases they have a better chance of winning.

“Perhaps the prudent thing to be looking at is, it’s a big monster litigation and the numbers are huge but this is not the first time we ve seen this,” Walsh said. “I don t know that the compensatory damages are so completely out of whack that there’s no expectation meaningful progress can be made in getting rid of some subset of cases.”

Still, the punitive damages award is part of the case, and juries in two trials have decisively found the companies liable for wrongdoing, Walsh said. With the punitive awards what they are, even if the trial judge did pare back the verdict before entering judgment, Walsh said, he “can t see that there’s any number that would lead to settling the docket.”

While the gears of the appellate process grind, the parties are facing their next trial date. Judge Kinkeade set the fourth bellwether for September and has named 10 plaintiffs, each from New York, whose cases should be prepared for the trial.

J&J has said it will “continue to urge that no further trials be conducted until we receive appellate court guidance.”

But because the Fifth Circuit rejected the company’s request after the second bellwether, lawyers are skeptical the $1 billion plaintiffs verdict is enough to change the appellate court’s mind about putting future trials on ice.

“If the Fifth Circuit didn’t intervene before this trial, I see no reason why they would intervene after it either,” Kennerly said. “This trial didn’t raise any issues substantially different from the first trial. In my opinion, the size of the verdict doesn’t change that analysis.”

Walsh said he thinks the verdicts are sizable enough that they should have gotten the Fifth Circuit’s attention about potential problems with the bellwethers, but doesn t expect to see the court stop future trials.

“If $500 million didn t get their attention, $1 billion isn t going to get their attention,” he said. “If it were $1 trillion, maybe.”

The patients are represented by W. Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm, Richard Arsenault of Neblett Beard & Arsenault, Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC and Khaldoun Baghdadi of Walkup Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger, among others.

DePuy and Johnson & Johnson are represented by Steve Quattlebaum of Quattlebaum Grooms Tull & Burrow PLLC, John Anderson of Stoel Rives LLP, Dawn Estes of Estes Thorne & Carr, Michael Powell and Seth Roberts of Locke Lord LLP and Stephen J. Harburg, John H. Beisner, Jessica Davidson Miller and Geoffrey M. Wyatt of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.

The MDL is In re: DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:11-md-02244, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

–Editing by Mark Lebetkin and Jill Coffey.

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Who has a claim when someone is wrongfully killed

When a person is wrongfully killed in Texas due to the fault of another person, company, or a defective product the law provides two types of claims that may be brought. The first is a wrongful death claim which may be brought by the surviving spouse, parents and children of the deceased. Siblings and other relatives may not bring a claim. The damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death claim include pecuniary loss (loss of the care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel, and contributions of a monetary nature that the survivor would have received from the decedent), loss of companionship and society (such as loss of love, comfort, and companionship the survivor sustained), mental anguish (emotional pain, torment, and suffering), and loss of inheritance. Of course the person bringing the wrongful death claim will have to have evidence of these damages. Although it is virtually impossible to put a dollar value of some of these things, juries in wrongful death cases are asked to do so.

The second type of claim that may be brought in Texas when someone is wrongfully killed is a survival claim. This claim may be brought by the estate of the deceased or a representative of the estate. The damages that may be recovered include the pain and mental anguish that the decedent experienced before his death, medical expenses for the treatment of the decedent’s injuries, and funeral and burial expenses. When a person dies instantly in an accident and does not incur any medical bills, a survival claim is limited to the funeral and burial expenses. On the other hand if the decedent experienced suffering before death then damages for pain and mental anguish may be awarded.

Exemplary or punitive damages may be recovered in both survival and wrongful death claims if there was gross negligence. The purpose of these damages is to punish the wrongdoer and to deter such conduct in the future.

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Four Die at DuPont Chemical Plant

Chemical Leak Kills Four in Plant Near Houston

A defective valve is blamed in the deaths of four workers at a DuPont facility in La Porte, Texas, around 4 a.m., Saturday, November 15. The federal Chemical Safety Board has sent investigators to the plant. Sources say that the dead included workers who were responding to the leak. Among the dead are two brothers, one of whom died trying to rescue the other. A fifth worker was treated for exposure, but released from the hospital.

The deadly chemical—methyl mercaptan is used to give the familiar rotten egg smell to natural gas, making it more readily detectable. It is also used in fungicides and insecticides. Industry officials say that, in large doses, it can lead to vomiting, loss of consciousness and death. Residents around the plant reported smelling the gas, but also acknowledged that there are funny smells produced by the plant all the time. Officials said that the methyl mercaptan gas spread across the area as a result of the leak, but claim that it dissipated and posed no threat to the public.

This is not the first time in recent memory that DuPont has seen the death of an employee in one of its chemical plants. The company was cited in 2011 by the Chemical Safety Board for allowing a series of preventable safety shortcomings that resulted in the death of a worker at its Belle, West Virginia, facility. A year earlier, the Chemical Safety Board determined the death of a DuPont worker in Buffalo, New York, was attributed to the company’s failure to monitor flammable gas levels in a storage tank scheduled to be welded.

Contact Us

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas family law attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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POINT MADE, PIERS: THEY MAY NOT BE SMART ENOUGH TO OWN AN ASSAULT RIFFLE


Piers Morgan’s interview of 5 people on CNN was aired on February 4, 2013. First, he spoke with the Katy, Texas Tactical Firearms gun shop owner, Jeremy Alcede, where the interview took place. Alcede said we needed to keep assault weapons out of the hands of the retarded. What do you say about someone who owns a gun store and sells assault riffles but does not know the difference between someone who is retarded and someone with a mental illness.

His second guest was Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot. Abbot said background checks do not work so we should not bother with it at all, and it is not the law abiding citizens who own assault riffles that we need to worry about. The last time Texans listened to this Attorney General was when he somehow differentiated and justified his personal injury suit from all of those frivolous lawsuits when a tree fell on him while he was jogging during or right after a tropical storm in an affluent, Houston neighborhood. That lawsuit netted him an 8 figure personal injury settlement. Once elected Texas Attorney General, Abbot supported tort reform to restrict other truly innocent victims from being able to redress wrongs against them. Like all tort reformers, it’s all other lawsuits that are frivolous – not theirs.

His third and fourth guests, appearing together for moral support, Texas State Senator and former and current conservative radio talks how host, Dan Patrick and Ben Fertuson, respectively. Patrick said he owns an assault riffle and needs it for self defense. Ferguson said Texans need assault riffles because they hunt hogs from helicopters and need to be able to defend themselves against Mexican drug runners and gangs. Ferguson is simply an angry zealot who thinks the military is going to come into his home and take his guns from him. He yells to make a point that he cannot make in a normal, calm tone. He yells because with little to say to make his point, he has to drown everyone else out.

Last but not least was former living-large, wild rock star guitarist, now ultraconservative, right wing, avid hunter and NRA Board Member Ted Nugent. Nugent said it is an unnecessary government intervention in his life for him to have to register his assault riffle. Nugent registers his property, his motor vehicles, airplanes and boats, his prescription medications, his concealed handguns, his annual income, his political party, his intention to vote, his availability for the draft, his hunting dogs breed, his business entities, his campaign contributions, his employees, just to name a few. He does not, however, want to have to tell the government that he has assault riffles or how many of them because that would be an intrusion to the level of bureaucracy gone mad.

It is interesting that the only person on the show who was not angry, did not raise their voice, and was not out of control was Piers Morgan, and his delivery of his message came across loud and clear. Through all of the others raised voices it was impossible to understand their message of why they are so adamantly against registering the assault riffles they currently own and restricting the sales of more assault riffles and multi-round ammunition clips. I think they are afraid the government will send the military to their house to confiscate their assault riffles. That’s not paranoia, is it?

I learned a long time ago that when one side in a discussion or debate raises their voice it is because they have very little to say.

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