By Mark A. York (April 9, 2018)
(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) The second Xarelto bellwether drug trial over dangers related to internal bleeding linked to the anticoagulant blockbuster drug, started Friday April 6, 2018 in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, in front of Judge Michael E. Erdos. This trial, where plaintiff Daniel Russell, of New Jersey claims that after being prescribed Xarelto, for Atrial Fibrillation or Afib, the drug caused massive internal bleeding and other serious medical complications. Mr. Russel’s trial follows the December 2017 verdict where a jury had awarded plaintiff Lynn Hartman $28 million for failure to warn of the dangers of Xarelto, a verdict later reversed in post trial arguments by Judge Erdos.
In opening statements by lead counsel Brian Barr of the Levin Papantonio firm, (see Russell v Bayer et al Trial Transcript Opening Statements April 6, 2018) the jury was told on Friday, that drug makers Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson units (Janssen Pharmaceuticals, et al) failed to warn doctors about the risk the medication posed when used in combination with other drugs, which include internal bleeding, ischemic strokes and other adverse events. Offering that the companies had known that combining Xarelto with antiplatelet medications including Plavix and even aspirin, the combination would significantly increase the risk of internal bleeding, but that they ultimately opted to keep the information to themselves, and would not offer a formal FDA approved warning.
In the initial Phila bellwether trial, Lynn Hartman and her husband had filed their complaint against the drugmakers in 2015, (see XARELTO Case No. 2349 Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas briefcase) with claims very similar to Mr. Russell, resulting in the jury awarding $1.8 million in compensatory damages and $26 million in punitive damages. This verdict was seen as a high note for plaintiff counsel in the Xarelto litigation, after three prior trial losses, in the Xarelto MDL 2592 bellwether trials in Louisiana and Mississippi in 2017, which took place in federal courts.
The Phila Court Xarelto docket is the hot mass tort ticket now as Judge Fallon decided there will be no more MDL trials in front of him, and started the remand process in the Xarelto MDL 2592 cases, where he’s sending the cases back to original jurisdictions for trial.
The Lynn Hartman trial was just one of about 21,400 lawsuits against Bayer and Janssen pending in federal and state courts blaming injuries on Xarelto, and was the first case selected for trial from more than 1,400 Xarelto cases pending in the Complex Litigation docket of the Philadelphia court. Daniel Russel’s case is the second bellwether trial to go forward in the Xarelto docket, with several additional trials set to follow in the coming months.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Xarelto in 2011, to be prescribed for people with atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder, and to treat and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms, often after implant surgeries.
Plaintiffs in the Hartman trial as well as in thousands of other Xarelto lawsuits, alleged that the drug was unreasonably dangerous and that Janssen (J&J) and Bayer failed to warn patients about a serious risk of uncontrollable, irreversible bleeding in emergencies and were aware of adverse events for a long period of time. These allegations will be argued aggressively by defense in all forthcoming trials, as the defendants do not seem to be willing to bend on their winning trial strategy.
Bayer and Janssen have defended Xarelto’s label stating that the label adequately warns of bleeding risks. After four trials verdicts, all in their favor, defense seems to be using an effective trial strategy that has worked in venues across the country.
The three bellwether trials in the Xarelto MDL 2592, Xarelto MDL 2592 Briefcase (US District Court ED Louisiana) heard in front of Judge Eldon Fallon, all resulted in defense wins for Bayer and Janssen, with this Philadelphia trial shifting the focus from the federal Xarelto docket to the Philadelphia court and the bellwether trials scheduled there. This trail will be closely watched by all arties, as the impact of the initial plaintiff’s trial win followed by the Judge Erdos reversal in January during post-trial hearings, was not anticipated by those on the plaintiff bench. Will the Hartman verdict reversal ruling, as well as the peripheral trial conduct issues that were also addressed post-trial by Judge Erdos have any impact on this current Russell trial and the remaining scheduled trials in the Phila Xarelto docket? That is a question that remains to be seen over the course of the upcoming trials in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Xarelto docket
Mass Tort Nexus will be providing daily updates on the Russell vs. Bayer & Janssen trial.