Earlier this month, a federal district court judge entered an order reducing a jury’s verdict awarding a plaintiff $500 million in damages in a product liability lawsuit involving DePuy Orthopedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, to $151 million. The jury’s verdict was returned in March 2016 and reflected compensation for five different plaintiffs who claimed they suffered injuries as a result of receiving a Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant device.
The trial lasted for two months and concluded with the jury determining that the metal-on-metal devices were designed in an unreasonably dangerous manner and that the manufacturer failed to provide appropriate warnings about the risks of the products. The jury’s verdict included $130 million in compensatory damages for the plaintiffs and $360 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish defendants who engage in willful, reckless, or malicious conduct and to deter other companies from engaging in similar conduct. The judge who reduced the verdict stated that according to Texas state law, punitive damages must be calculated according to a specific formula.
In related news, the same judge denied DePuy’s motion asking the court to stay the third bellwether trial in the Pinnacle MDL proceeding from going forward until the company could appeal the $500 million verdict, stating that it would create potentially adverse results and result in a waste of judicial resources to allow the third trial to proceed while the company appealed the results of the second bellwether trial. In October 2014, DePuy won the first bellwether trial.
An MDL, or multi-district litigation, is a proceeding in which claims involving the same product, pharmaceutical, or medical device are pooled before the same judge. Unlike in a class action, each plaintiff must still prove his or her claim and establish that he or she is entitled to the damages that he or she is claiming in the lawsuit. The MDL proceeding is designed to streamline the adjudication of the lawsuits and to promote consistency among the results. A bellwether trial is a trial involving a plaintiff or group of plaintiffs whose claims are representative of the remaining MDL plaintiffs’ claims. The results of the bellwether cases are intended to facilitate settlement negotiations and to help the parties test their legal theories, claims, and defenses.
The next bellwether trial is scheduled to go forward on September 6 and will involve claims from seven plaintiffs. In its motion seeking a stay of the third bellwether proceeding, DePuy accused the judge of engaging in an abuse of the bellwether trial process and of allowing irrelevant and inflammatory evidence to be admitted during the second bellwether trial. In addressing this accusation, the judge stated in his order denying the stay that he had warned DePuy that offering evidence of product safety, good character, product success in foreign countries, and positive scientific reviews would allow the plaintiffs to offer rebuttal evidence.
If you have suffered injuries involving a dangerous medical device, the skilled DePuy lawyers at Moll Law Group are prepared to provide you with the legal counsel that you deserve. We have represented clients throughout the United States, including in Illinois, California, Florida, and Texas. We offer a free consultation to help you learn more about MDL proceedings and the other legal options that may be available to you. Call us now at 312-462-1700 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.