Orange County and Santa Clara County Suits Against “Opiate Big Pharma” In California State Court Can Proceed

Ruling Rejects Opioid Manufacturers’ Arguments To Dismiss Deceptive Marketing Litigation

By Mark A. York (February 19, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) On February 13, 2018, the Orange County Superior Court rejected efforts by opioid manufacturers to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Santa Clara County Counsel and the Orange County District Attorney on behalf of the People of the State of California. The lawsuit, filed in May 2014, alleges that the defendants—including opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma L.P., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Endo Health Solutions, Inc., and Actavis PLC—engaged in a deceptive marketing scheme that trivialized the risks of opioids, resulted in rampant over-prescribing, and led to a nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction.

“The court’s ruling puts an end to years of delay tactics by the defendants,” said Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams. “Now we will finally be able to move forward with the litigation and obtain key documents demonstrating the manufacturers’ misconduct. This is a critical step in addressing the opioid crisis that plagues California and the nation, and we will fight to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for their actions.”

STATE COURTS AHEAD OF FEDERAL OPIATE LITIGATION

In addition to the California counties suing in state court there are more than 200 counties from across the country as well as 30 major cities that have filed suits against opioid manufacturers in Opiate Prescription Multidistrict Litigation MDL 2804, pending in the US District Court of Northern Ohio in front of Judge Dan Polster, see Prescription Opiates MDL 2804 Briefcase. In addition to governmental entities, Judge Polster has also permitted unions and hospitals to join in the consolidated opioid litigation against Purdue Pharma, et al. The age of “Profits Before Patients” by Big Pharma may finally have started to come to an end, but it will not occur with very aggressive legal tactics and maneuvering by the opioid makers defense teams.

INSURERS ARE FIGHTING BACK

Earlier this year Travelers Insurance and St Paul Fire and Marine Insurance scored a legal victory when they were granted a declaratory judgment win related to defending Watson and it’s parent company Activis, Inc in the Orange County-Santa Clara County litigation, after the California Appellate Court declared the Traveller’s/St Paul  opioid coverage policy void due to the “Watson’s Deliberate Conduct” in relation to sales and marketing of opioid prescription drugs, which was determined to be improper. The decision also voided the Watson-Activis coverage in the City of Chicago vs. Watson et al, in Chicago federal court, see  California Appeals Court Denies Insurance Coverage For Opioid Drug Makers Defense. This may be a trend for insurance carriers as they’ve filed other legal action to void coverage on behalf of opioid drug makers including Insys Therapeutics, Inc and defense of its Subsys fentanyl fast acting drug.

OPIOID RX DRUG MAKERS CHANGING TACTICS

The ruling comes the same week that Purdue Pharma, maker of the opioid OxyContin, announced that it will cut its salesforce in half and stop promoting opioids to doctors. The lawsuit brought by the Santa Clara County Counsel and the Orange County District Attorney was among the first lawsuits brought by government officials to hold opioid manufacturers responsible for their role in the opioids crisis. Manufacturers like Purdue now face pressure from hundreds of additional lawsuits nationwide.

The lawsuit was filed on May 21, 2014, against major opioid manufacturers. (People of the State of California v. Purdue Pharma, et al., Orange County Superior Court, Case No. 30-2014-00725287-CU-BT-CXC.) In 2015, defendants moved to stay the lawsuit, and the case was stayed until October 2016, when the court partially lifted the stay to consider defendants’ arguments that the case should be dismissed. The court has now lifted the stay entirely, and its ruling allows the lawsuit to go forward.

UP TO $500 BILLION SETTLEMENT

The current “Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804” is being compared to the 1998 Tobacco Litigation settlement where Big Tobacco paid a settlement of $200 billion to cities, states and other governmental entities. The Opioid Litigation is expected to reach settlement figures of 3 to 4 times that amount, projected to be at the $500 billion plus figure, due to the rampant corporate boardroom directed policies that flooded the US marketplace for the last 15 years. Corporate sales and marketing policies and lack of oversight, enabled hundreds of millions of opioid prescription drugs to reach all areas of the country, thereby causing in excess of 100 thousand deaths and unknown catastrophic economic damages in every corner of the United States.

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Punitive Damages Now Allowed in Philadelphia Risperdal Suits Per Superior Court Ruling

Janssen Facing Over 6,400 Cases in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas

By Mark A. York (January 18, 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) Plaintiffs in the Risperdal litigation, may now seek punitive damages under a recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.  Previously, plaintiffs were prevented from seeking punitive damages because the laws of New Jersey, applied to the Risperdal cases filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, see Risperdal Re: Janssen: Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Johnson & Johnson is headquartered in New Jersey, with the courts previously applying those laws which barred punitive damages.

More than 6,000 Risperdal lawsuits in the Philadelphia docket allege Risperdal caused young men and boys to develop a condition called gynecomastia, where female breasts develop in male patients, with J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals failing to warn about the risk.

The three-judge Superior Court panel ruled on January 9, 2018, that plaintiffs in the Philadelphia cases may apply the law of their home state to seek punitive damages, which opens up an entirely new legal avenue for plaintiffs.

Johnson & Johnson stated they were “disappointed in the ruling” and will be considering all options moving forward, while plaintiff counsel commented “This is something we’ve been right about from the beginning and maybe now, once and for all, J&J will recognize they’re facing punitive damages.”

Now that there is a threat of punitive damages, J&J will have to determine long term case strategy, as the punitive awards against J&J in 2016 – 2017 in other mass torts amounted to over eight hundred million dollars, and plaintiffs’ attorneys hope J&J will consider settling the remaining cases.

Plaintiffs have filed more than 6,400 product liability cases resulting from the use of anti-psychotic drug Risperdal in the complex litigation docket of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Plaintiff lead counsel, Tom Kline of Kline & Specter in Philadelphia, says “stakes in these cases will be raised now that the prospect of punitive damages is in play.”

On Jan. 8, Superior Court Judges Jack A. Panella, Alice Beck Dubow and Kate Ford Elliott ruled that plaintiffs in the Philadelphia-based Risperdal litigation may apply the respective laws of their home states to attempt to obtain punitive damages from Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the developer of Risperdal and a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

“This is a pivotal decision in the Risperdal litigation. The Court found that the trial evidence justified the verdict in plaintiff’s favor. In addition, the stakes in any mass tort are raised when punitive damages are recoverable. This thoughtful and thorough opinion will now provide guidance for the entire litigation moving forward,” Kline said.

J&J and Janssen official statement is “We are disappointed in the Court’s ruling and will consider our options going forward. Contrary to the impression plaintiffs’ attorneys have attempted to create over the course of this litigation, Risperdal (risperidone) is an important FDA-approved medicine that, when used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, continues to help millions of patients with mental illnesses and neurodevelopmental conditions,” there was no comment released by Janssen defense counsel.

Currently, most of the 6,400 lawsuits based in the Philadelphia Risperdal docket have been filed by out-of-state plaintiffs, who assert Risperdal causes young males to contract gynecomastia, or the development of female breast tissue, and that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn of these side effects from the drug.

The Superior Court’s new ruling applies across-the-board, as even plaintiffs who have previously received jury verdicts in Risperdal litigation, can now petition the court for new trials or request hearings to enhance verdict awards by adding punitive damages. One prior jury verdict was for more than $70 million and plaintiffs can now request additional punitive damages be awarded.

Before this ruling, seeking of punitive damages in Risperdal cases was prohibited according to New Jersey state law – because Johnson & Johnson is headquartered there.

The ruling on Risperdal punitive damages started when Johnson & Johnson appealed the Stange vs. Janssen Pharmaceuticals verdict; where Wisconsin plaintiff Timothy Stange asserted an inadequate warning of developing gynecomastia from taking Risperdal.

Mr. Stange used Risperdal for three years during his childhood, for treatment of Tourette’s syndrome, and at the close of the trial, a Philadelphia jury awarded him $500,000, and the recent Superior Court ruling has now upheld plaintiff arguments that an inadequate warning of the gynecomastia risks directly caused his injuries.

According to reports from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, of the suits filed in the first 3 months of 2017, about 80 percent of cases in the Complex Litigation docket, came from out-of-state plaintiffs. With this recent ruling, it would seem logical that the number of Risperdal lawsuits filed in the Philadelphia court, may increase dramatically as the potential verdict award amounts have just risen to unknown numbers at this point.

One explanation for the surge in Risperdal filings can be directed toward defendants Johnson & Johnson, when they decided to cancel tolling agreements on thousands of cases. Knowing this strategy would increase the number of cases filed and the burden on the Court.

Tolling agreements pause the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit, and J&J actions seem to indicate that they wanted more lawsuits, not less, with J&J deciding to cancel the agreement after the $77 million verdict.

To date, eight Risperdal case have gone to trial in Philadelphia, with four juries ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, and J&J getting the other four cases dismissed.

The first case to trial, filed by Austin Pledger of Alabama was heard in 2012, with the jury siding with Pledger, finding J&J and Janssen failed to warn the drug could cause gynecomastia, and the jury awarded $2.5 million to Mr. Pledger.

After two more verdicts of $500,000 and $1.75 million were awarded to plaintiffs, in 2016 a Philadelphia jury handed a landmark verdict of $70 million to Andrew Yount of Tennessee, with. Judge Paula Patrick adding nearly $7 million in additional damages over intentional delays during the legal proceedings.

With the new rules regarding punitive damage,  including permitting retroactive claims by successful plaintiffs to now request punitives, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals may need to rethink their long term case strategy, as having a punitive sword hanging over the 6,400 plus remaining cases, should cause defense counsel to re-evaluate their position sooner versus later.

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$28 Million Xarelto Jury Verdict Reversed by Judge in Philadelphia Court

Defense gets fourth win in the four Xarelto bellwether trials

By Mark York (January 11, 2018)

 Xarelto Blood Thinner Developed by Bayer and Janssen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) The December 2017 Xarelto jury verdict of $27.8 million awarded to an Indiana couple, was overturned earlier this week, when the trial judge vacated the verdict. The plaintiffs had accused Bayer AG and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, of failing to warn of internal bleeding risks of their drug Xarelto.

Judge Michael Erdos, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, heard arguments on January 9, 2018 in a motion hearing to reverse the December verdict, which was the first defense trial loss in litigation over the Xarelto blood thinner, and also the first trial outside the Xarelto MDL 2592, (see XARELTO MDL 2592 US District Court ED Louisiana briefcase) in front of Judge Eldon Fallon, US District Court of Louisiana.

Judge Erdos issued his ruling from the bench after the hearing on defense motions for a new trial or alternatively, for a judgement notwithstanding the verdict, and at the close of a full day of arguments stating, “a new trial is not necessary because plaintiff did not adequately demonstrate responsible cause,” and he then entered judgement for the defendants.

“J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc and Bayer, which jointly developed Xarelto, welcomed the decision and issued statements saying they will continue to defend against the allegations in all Xarelto litigation, with a total of more than 20,000 pending lawsuits now in both state and federal Xarelto dockets.

Bayer stated “Bayer stands behind the safety and efficacy of Xarelto and will continue to vigorously defend it.”

The December 5, 2017 verdict came in a lawsuit filed by Lynn Hartman, who was prescribed Xarelto as treatment for an irregular heartbeat also known as atrial fibrillation, to prevent strokes. The testimony and opinions of Ms. Hartman’s treating physician and views on continued willingness to prescribe Xarelto, had a significant impact on the final ruling to overturn the verdict by Judge Erdos.

Hartman claimed she was prescribed the drug for a little more than a year, starting in February 2013, and was hospitalized with severe gastrointestinal bleeding in June 2014, at age 72, with the bleed attributed to taking Xarelto. The court record reflected that Ms. Hartman has since recovered from the hospitalization.

Lynn Hartman and her husband filed their complaint against the drugmakers in 2015, (see XARELTO Case No. 2349 Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas briefcase) with the six week trial starting the first week of November 2017, 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 Xarelto MDL 2592 bellwether trials in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Hartman trial is just one of about 21,400 against Bayer and Janssen pending in federal and state courts blaming injuries on Xarelto, and the first selected for trial from more than 1,400 Xarelto cases pending in the Complex Litigation docket of the Philadelphia court.

Plaintiff trial counsel Michael Weinkowitz, said the decision related to a “very narrow issue related to Mrs. Hartman’s prescribing physician.” He said he looked forward to trying the next series of Xarelto-related cases in Philadelphia. The post trial legal arguments were related to the “learned intermediary doctrine and proximate cause” and was raised by defense in post trial motions and aggressively argued, which plaintiff counsel was unable to overcome in the full day hearing.

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, 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 Hartman trial. What impact the initial plaintiff’s trial win followed by the Judge Erdos reversal this week has on both Xarelto dockets remains to be seen.

 

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$29 Million XARELTO Jury Verdict Against Bayer AG, Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Johnson & Johnson) in Philadelphia

XARELTO TRIAL VERDICT FOR PLAINTIFF: BAYER AND JANSSEN PHARMACEUTICALS (J&J) LOSE  $29 MIILLION IN XARELTO TRIAL VERDICT BY PHILADELPHIA JURY

  

 

 

 

 

A state court jury in Philadelphia delivered a first-of-its-kind verdict on Tuesday as it awarded $29 million in damages against a pair of Johnson & Johnson and Bayer AG units after finding the companies had provided inadequate warnings about the risks of bleeding associated with the blood thinner Xarelto,(see XARELTO Case No. 2349 in Philadephia Court of Common Pleas – Complex Litigation (PA State Court).  In the first bellwether trial outside the Xarelto Federal MDL 2592, plaintiff counsel scored a win in a $29 million verdict, when plaintiff Lynn Hartman showed that Xarelto caused severe bleeding after she was prescribed the drug by her doctor. The 3 prior federal court trials in the Xarelto MDL 2592 docket (see XARELTO MDL 2592 US District Court ED Louisiana) were all won by the defense and this trial was watched closely by both legal and drug industry observers to see if the 3-0 defense win streak continued. Now that Ms. Hartman has shown that the Xarelto prescription caused her internal bleeding, with no warnings by manufacturers Bayer and J&J, the remaining 22,000 Xarelto cases pending in courts across the country will begin preparations for a legal battle that to date has gone in favor of defense counsel.

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PA Superior Court Reverses Risperdal Defense Verdict as Court Strikes Janssen Pharmaceuticals Only Favorable Jury Verdict

“Johnson & Johnson Hit With Another Trial Verdict Reversal”

By Mark York (November 17, 2017)

Mass Tort Nexus

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS) The Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed the single defense verdict reached in favor of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of anti-psychotic drug Risperdal. The reversal and order for a new trial stemmed from a 2015 trial that resulted in the one Risperdal defense verdict to date. The case is part of the mass tort docket for Risperdal cases in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, (see RISPERDAL Case No 296 PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS BRIEFCASE), where more than 6,000 Risperdal cases are pending.

The 22-page unanimous Superior Court decision by Judge Jack Panella, reversed the Janssen defense win in the Risperdal trial where plaintiff William Cirba filed suit against Janssen Pharmaceuticals and lost, as well the subsequent denial of Mr. Cirba’s request for a retrial based on “erroneous evidentiary rulings.”

The ruling ordered a new trial and will now be limited to the issues of causation and damages.

LAYPERSON AT TRIAL IS NOT AN EXPERT

The Superior Court stated the trial court made a reversible error at trial, by allowing physician’s assistant Michelle Baker’s testimony to be weighed on the same level as that of a medical expert. Ms. Baker was involved in the treatment of Mr. Cirba from 2005 to 2013, as a physician’s assistant.

During the Cirba trial, a videotaped deposition from Baker was played in which she stated an opinion that Cirba’s gynecomastia (the development of breast tissue) was the result of “extreme weight gain” rather than negative side effects from Risperdal. Cirba had been prescribed the drug to treat oppositional defiant disorder.

Cirba’s counsel objected that it was improper that Baker’s layperson testimony was considered equal to that of an expert, since she was not designated or qualified prior to trial – while the defense believed Baker’s deposition did not cross over into expert testimony and “constituted permissible lay opinion testimony, as it was rationally based on her perception of plaintiff during treatment.” Which the Superior Court has obviously disagreed with.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Janssen in March 2015, although the jury at that time believed Janssen failed to properly warn Cirba’s physicians of gynecomastia risks associated with Risperdal, it stopped short of finding Janssen negligent in directly causing Cirba’s gynecomastia.

The Superior Court sided with the plaintiff in believing admitting Baker’s testimony was an attempt to enter the realm of expert knowledge.

Defendants’ experts opined that weight gain rather than Risperdal ingestion caused plaintiff to appear to have gynecomastia. Baker’s testimony, in which she opined that plaintiff’s weight gain, rather than his Risperdal usage, caused him to appear to have gynecomastia, was causation testimony offered by a witness who personally treated the plaintiff” Panella said.

Panella added Baker’s opinion was “offered without the proper vetting and safeguards surrounding expert testimony.”

“Further, this opinion was introduced into evidence due to the trial court’s improper application of the law, which is clearly an abuse of discretion. Therefore, we find that the trial court abused its discretion in denying plaintiff’s request for a new trial, limited to the issues of causation and damages,” the panel stated, in reversing the judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings.

SAME PANEL STRIKES RISPERDAL SOL CLAIMS

In a separate 18-page ruling also issued Nov. 13, the exact same three-judge panel upheld the trial court’s striking down of arguments that the statute of limitations in two Risperdal cases, featuring plaintiffs Jonathan Saksek and Joshua Winter, should have been tolled until 2013.

Saksek and Winter were prescribed Risperdal in 1997 and 1998, allegedly began developing gynecomastia in 1998 and 2002, respectively, but didn’t file suit until 2014. Both plaintiffs brought suit after seeing television advertising connected to Risperdal litigation in 2013.

The defense agreed with the trial court that the statute of limitations mandated the grant of summary judgment, but contended if the discovery rule applied, it would have only tolled the statute of limitations until October 2006, when Risperdal’s prescribing label was changed to include a warning about gynecomastia.

In January 2015, Judge Arnold New granted a defense motion for summary judgment and ruled an applicable statute of limitations applied to both Saksek and Winter’s cases, feeling that they should have known of Risperdal’s gynecomastia-related injury risks by June 30, 2009.

Both plaintiffs appealed, and the appeals were consolidated, but the higher court agreed with the trial court.

“Plaintiffs were aware of their injuries when they began experiencing unexplained weight gain – and breast growth – after starting Risperdal treatment in 1998 and 2002. However, from 1998 and 2002 until 2013, when plaintiffs were notified of the commercial claiming a link between gynecomastia and Risperdal, they did nothing to uncover the cause of their unexplained breast growth and weight gain. Plaintiff cannot hope to establish that they acted with reasonable diligence, when they admit that they failed to act at all,” Panella stated.

Their breasts were there, and had been there, for years. And then, in October 2006, the label on Risperdal changed, expressly linking usage of the drug to gynecomastia. Their breasts were clearly not temporary by 2006. Accordingly, by that date, ‘reasonable minds would not differ in finding that’ plaintiffs knew, or should have known, of their injuries and the cause of those injuries by this point,” Panella added.

RULING AFFECTS OTHER CASES

Kline commented on the Superior Court’s statute of limitations ruling, indicating it could be far-reaching beyond merely the instant cases.

“We believe [this] harsh ruling, which may bar the claims of thousands of claimants who could not possibly have known of their gynecomastia injury and its cause, is legally and factually wrong. We plan to appeal further, seeking to reopen the courthouse doors to them,” Kline said.

Janssen’s stated:  “We are pleased the Superior Court affirmed Judge New’s ruling on the application of statute of limitations.

MASS TORT DOCKET GROWING

More than 6,400 Risperdal lawsuits – most from out-of-state plaintiffs – will be handled in Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center. The CLC has several mass tort programs, including cases over Xarelto  (See Case No. 2349 in Philadephia Court of Common Pleas – Complex Litigation PA State Court) and asbestos, and the percentage of claims belonging to out-of-state plaintiffs has traditionally been in the high 80s. In 2016, the percentage for pharmaceutical lawsuits dropped to 74 percent.

However, in 2017, the most recent CLC stats show that figure has jumped to an unprecedented 94 percent.

Appeal Docket: Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 2451 EDA 2015 & 576 EDA 2015

Trial Docket: Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 130301803, 140200183 & 140301170

 

 

 

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WEEKLY MDL UPDATE by MASS TORT NEXUS for Week of November 13, 2017

The week in mass torts around the country:

By Mark York, Mass Tort Nexus (November 16, 2017)

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MASS TORT NEXUS

 Verdicts on November 16, 2017: 

J&J gets hit hard again, in a $247 million Pinnacle hip implant verdict, DePuy Orthopaedics Pinnacle Implant MDL 2244, in bellwether trial of 3:15-cv-03489 Alicea et al v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc et al. (DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant MDL 2244 Briefcase)

Drug maker Auxilium won a defense verdict in their Testim product bellwether trial, where plaintiffs claimed it caused a heart attack in a verdict reached in the US District Court Northern District of Illinois, Judge Kennelly, in MDL 2545 Testosterone Replacement Therapy. (Testosterone Therapy MDL 2545 USDC ND Illinois)

Johnson & Johnson Wins a Defense Verdict in Los Angeles Court Talcum Powder Mesothelioma Trial, Jury Finds J&J Not Liable in Tina Herford et al. v. Johnson & Johnson Case number BC646315, consolidated in LAOSD Asbestos Cases, case number JCCP4674, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.  (J&J Talcum Powder Cancer Litigation Briefcase)

Senator Bob Menendez  judge declares a mistrial in New Jersey federal court trial, after a hung jury cannot agree unanimously on charges. Question is- Are the Senator and his doctor friend in Florida, just that-were they just friends or was there active bribery taking place?

Recent Case Updates:

>Plaintiff in DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Trial Asks Texas Jury For A Hundred Million + In Punitive Damages

At the close of arguments in the latest DePuy MDL 2244 trial on Monday November 13, 2017, six New York plaintiffs asked a Texas federal jury to hit Johnson & Johnson and it’s DePuy subsidiary, with at least a nine-figure punitive damages award. Attorneys asked that J&J and DePuy be punished for making and marketing their Pinnacle model hip implants, an alleged defective line of metal-on-metal hip implants, that have caused many thousands of injuries to unsuspecting patients. If this jury follows suit on prior Pinnacle bellwether jury awards, then J&J and DePuy should be ready for a massive verdict, as the last jury awarded California plaintiffs over one billion dollars in December 2016, sending a clear message that the company’s Pinnacle design and subsequent marketing policies have failed.

METALLSOIS DAMAGE

Closing arguments wrapped up on the two-month bellwether trial, where plaintiffs claimed they suffered “metallosis” which caused tissue damage and negative reactions to the Pinnacle Ultamet line of metal-on-metal hip implants made by J&J’s DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. unit. Depending on the jury verdict, perhaps J&J will consider coming to the settlement table if another massive verdict is awarded, or they may continue the aggressive “we’ve done no wrong stance” resulting in more plaintiff verdicts in the future..

 >Travelers Insurance Wins Declaratory Judgment Suit Over Defense Coverage In Orange County and Chicago Opioid Lawsuits:

“California Appeals court says Watson not covered”

Watson Pharma, Inc. and it’s parent Activis, Inc. were denied insurance coverage in a November 6, 2017 ruling by the California State Court of Appeals in the 2014 Declaratory Judgment action filed by Travelers Insurance in an Orange County, CA court where Travelers successfully asserted claims that they were not required to defend or indemnify Watson in the underlying opioid based litigation filed by Santa Clara and Orange County against opioid manufacturers, due to Watson’s “intentional bad conduct” in their business practices related to sales and marketing of it’s opioid products. The Appeals Court also excluded Watson’s coverage in a similar opioid lawsuit against them in a Chicago, Illinois federal case where the City of Chicago filed similar claims against Watson over opioid marketing abuses in 2014. Perhaps other insurance carrier will take notice and look closer at denying policy coverage for many other opioid manufacturers who have been sued across the country in cases with almost the exact claims as those alleged by Santa Clara County and the City of Chicago.

>NEW XARELTO TRIAL:

Former FDA Commissioner Testifies in Philadelphia Xarelto Trial-

“Xarelto Warnings Are Inadequate”

— Former head of the Food and Drug Administration, Commissioner David Kessler testified during the first state court trial in Philadelphia, telling the jury on Tuesday that “warning labels for the blood thinner Xarelto failed to provide adequate information to doctors and consumers about the risk of bleeding that some patients could face when using the drug”.

David Kessler, FDA Commissioner under President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, told jurors that Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson’s warning labels for the medication understated the risk of significant bleeding events that had been seen in television and print ads across the country for years, and failed to disclose the true risks associated with prescribing the blockbuster drug. This trial, expected to take six weeks, is the first state court bellwether trial for the blood thinner Xarelto, in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the prior trials took place in federal courts in Louisiana and Mississippi where the defense prevailed in all 3 trials earlier this year. Those trials were all bellwether trials, as part of the Xarelto MDL 2592 in front of Judge Eldon Fallon, US District Court, ED Louisiana. Will the change of venue to Pennsylvania State Court have a different outcome than the three prior Xeralto trial losses?

>Luzerene County, Pennsylvania Files RICO Suit Over Opioid Marketing Against Drug Makers

Luzerne County in Northeast Pennsylvania has filed a federal RICO based lawsuit accusing pharmaceutical companies including Purdue, Pharma, Endo, Janssen and Teva of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by illegally marketing highly addictive painkillers that have contributed to a costly national opioid epidemic. The suit filed in US district Court of Pennsylvania by Luzerne County is one of many cases opioid drugmakers and distributors are facing as state and local governments seek to recoup costs they’ve incurred in the increased marketing and prescribing of opioid painkillers, and the resultant spikes in addiction and overdose.

OPIOID MARKETING ABUSES

“The manufacturers aggressively pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction,” the complaint, which was filed on Wednesday, said. “These pharmaceutical companies … turned patients into drug addicts for their own corporate profit.”
“The lawsuit accused the drugmakers of using false and deceptive marketing practices over the course of the last two decades, including pushing the opioid painkillers for treatment of chronic pain, to boost prescriptions for the drugs

COMMON CLAIMS AGAINST ALL OPIOiD MAKERS

Among the companies’ primary claims, cited by Luzerne county and others, evidence the manufacturers intentionally misled consumers, was that the drugs were not addictive when prescribed to treat legitimate pain. This is one of the key claims used by all parties filing suit against the opioid manufacturers, across the entire country.

Case heading is: Luzerne County v. Purdue Pharma LP et al., case number 3:17-cv-2043, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

>Opioid Litigation Roundup: An Overview Of Recently Filed Cases and MDL 2804

In addition to the many counties and other communities from across the country that have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers in MDL 2802, set for a JPML consolidation hearing November 30, 2017 a new group of plaintiffs have joined the increasing pool of parties filing suit against Big Pharma opioid manufacturers and their distributors. Unions are now joining in the suits alleging that the business practices of the opioid makers and distributors caused catastrophic healthcare and related labor problems everywhere in the country over the last 15 years. Locals from the Electrical Workers; Commercial Food Service and Teamsters are now plaintiffs in the MDL 2804, which if approved at the upcoming JPML hearings in St Louis, will probably cause a flood of additional filings by unions across the country.

State attorneys general, a Native American tribe and individual consumers are among the ever increasing pool of plaintiffs who’ve brought lawsuits against drugmakers, pharmacies and distributors allegedly responsible for epidemic levels of opioid abuse. As word spreads among the network of local governments, and discussion take place about the municipal opioid lawsuits being filed, there will be a flood of new complaints filed, that will match or exceed the number of cases filed in the massive “Tobacco Litigation” which is quickly gaining comparison as the opioid case filings are looking to be comparable in size and probably exceed the tobacco litigation in damages.

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California Appeals Court Denies Insurance Coverage For Opioid Drug Makers Defense: Will other insurers say no to opioid coverage?

Profits over Patients Continues”

Mark York (November 15, 2017)

Mass Tort Nexus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS)  On November 6, 2017 California’s Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District, ruled that Travelers Property Casualty does not have a duty to defend or indemnify Watson Pharmaceuticals (Activis, Inc), in a long running opioid related lawsuit based in Orange County Superior Court, as well as a second opioid related suit in Chicago.

TRAVELERS FILES DECLARATORY COMPLAINT

Watson Pharmaceuticals aka Activis, Inc., along with several other opioid manufacturers, were sued by two California counties and the city of Chicago in 2014. The claimants were seeking redress for costs related to the opioid epidemic in their respective communities. Travelers denied Watson’s demand to pay for its defense and subsequently brought a lawsuit against the drug company. Travelers filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment requesting the court declare that insurance coverage or indemnification of Watson-Activis under policies issued to Watson.

The California Court of Appeal detailed in its 31-page ruling that the policy covers damages for bodily injuries caused by an accident, and that the actions of Watson-Activis were intentional and not subject to policy coverage.

OPINION CLEARLY DENIES COVERAGE

“The California action and the Chicago action do not create a potential liability for an accident because they are based, and can only be read as being based, on the deliberate and intentional conduct of Watson that produced injuries—including a resurgence in heroin use that were neither unexpected nor unforeseen,” Justice Richard Fybel wrote in the ruling.

WATSON CONDUCT IS EXCLUDED

“All of the injuries arose out of Watson’s products or the alleged statements and misrepresentations made about those products, and therefore fall within the product exclusions clause of the policies,” Fybel added.

“The takeaway is that the opioid crisis has gone into the realm of whether there is insurance coverage to pay for some of the costs being incurred by public entities,” commented Larry Golub, a lawyer and partner with Hinshaw & Culbertson who is unattached to the case.

“I think there is a potential for more cases,” Golub told Connecticut Law Tribune. “Big bucks are being spent to deal with the opioids crisis.”

This is the second time Travelers has won a ruling against Watson. In August 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the insurer did not have to defend Anda, a division of Watson Pharmaceuticals in a West Virginia federal court case over the “prescription drug abuse” crisis in that state. The court based its decision on the exclusions of the company’s insurance policy.

OPINION EXCERPT IN TRAVELERS vs. ANDA-WATSON

Background: Anda is a wholesale pharmaceutical distributor. The State of West Virginia has sued Anda and other pharmaceutical companies in West Virginia state court, requesting an injunction against their distribution practices and seeking compensation for expenses the state alleges it has incurred as a result of the proliferation of “Pill Mills” and the attendant “opioid epidemic.” Further stating “The judgment of the district court is affirmed, and the liability policy coverage for Anda and Watson in the West Virginia opioid suit is denied.”

Will denial of insurance coverage become a trend in the exploding number od lawsuits filed against opioid manufactures, distributors and will Big Pharma finally be forced to admit the wholesale opioid abuse designed in the boardroom and placed into American commerce by any means necessary over the last 20+ years?

 

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JOHNSON & JOHNSON ACCUSED OF WITNESS TAMPERING IN TWO DIFFERENT TRIALS CURRENTLY UNDERWAY

Does Win At Any Cost Apply to J&J Legal Strategy Even At Trial?

By Mark York (November 7, 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

(Mass Tort Nexus)  Federal Judge Edward Kinkeade has requested the US Attorneys Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) open an investigation and question witnesses regarding potential witness tampering in a currently underway DePuy Pinnacle hip implant trial. The trial is taking place in the US District Court of Texas in Dallas. The trial is the third bellwether trial in Multidistrict Litigation No. 2244, where thousands of plaintiffs have filed suit in the DePuy Orthopaedics MDL 2244 Pinnacle Hip Implant Litigation. The last trial resulted in a massive initial verdict of $1 billion, subsequently reduced by Judge Kinkeade to just over $500 million.

DePuy, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, has been sued along with J&J for their metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip devices, due to the release of cobalt and chromium metals into a patient’s body, resulting in the onset of metallosis, pseudotumors, and other adverse medical conditions which require surgery to remove the defective device, as well as ongoing treatment to address the related side effects.

As to J&J’s alleged witness tampering, Judge Kinkeade stated the potential witness tampering was “disturbing and disconcerting to me”. The issue revolves around interaction between am upcoming trial witness Dr. David Shein and a sales representative for DePuy. Dr Shein claims that during a surgical procedure he was warned of business ramifications,  in connection with his planned appearance as a witness during the DePuy Pinnacle trial.

Lead plaintiff trial attorney Mark Lanier noted:

“It is extremely concerning to me when there are requirements under the federal law, as well as state law, that witnesses not be tampered with, that—that it’s a serious felony, that it involves prison time, that it cuts to the core of who we are as a people and what our courts are about”

In the other witness tampering allegation during a current trial, J&J subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals is accused of interfering with a treating physician and witness in the just started Xarelto trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, see XARELTO Case No. 2349 in Philadephia Court of Common Pleas – Complex Litigation (PA State Court). This trial is the first state court Xarelto trial, where plaintiff Lynn Hartman filed suit against Janssen and Bayer over claims that Xarelto caused a major gastrointestinal bleed. The trial start was delayed by word that a meeting took place between a key witness, Dr. Timothy Aldridge, the plaintiff’s treating physician, and a Janssen sales representative.

Hartman’s lawyers said that scheduled testimony from Dr. Aldridge had essentially changed from indicating that Hartman had suffered a gastrointestinal bleed complicated by Xarelto, to denying whether he knew Hartman had suffered from a gastrointestinal bleed and being hostile to Hartman’s attorney.

Janssen claimed the meeting was routine, but opposing counsel claims that this contact, as well as the DePuy Pinnacle trial witness contact show a pattern of interference and a willingness of Johnson & Johnson employees to attempt to influence legal proceedings in ways that are often consider illegal.

In unsuccessful legal maneuvering, J&J requested a gag order to prevent the public from knowing about the DePuy trial witness tampering issue, but the judge denied their request. Prior verdicts against DePuy for Pinnacle Hip Implant cases included jury awards of $1.4 billion and $498 million in the two prior bellwether trials. The Xarelto trial tampering issue is still being reviewed by the court.

 

 

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XARELTO in Philadelphia Court: Will The BMSQ “California Plavix” SCOTUS Ruling Affect Out of State Plaintiffs?

XARELTO in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas: Will The “California Plavix” Supreme Court Ruling Affect Out of State Plaintiffs?

By Mark A. York

Mass Tort Nexus (September 26, 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

Bayer, which has a headquarters in Pennsylvania, recently used a June 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision on out of state plaintiffs and court jurisdictions to dismiss dozens of lawsuits from a Missouri federal court in the “Essure” birth control litigation. It remains to be seen if Bayer will use the same strategy in other jurisdictions, like Philadelphia, where the Xarelto blood thinner cases are piling up, see XARELTO Case No. 2349 in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Briefcase.

Thousands of out-of-state plaintiffs flocked to Philadelphia recently to file lawsuits over prescription drugs, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision might deter that practice in the future, see  June 19, 2017 Bristol-Myers v. Superior Court of California (Plavix Jurisdiction).

The many claimants who have brought their lawsuits in Philadelphia will have to see if pharmaceutical companies like Bayer, Johnson & Johnson and others who are facing many thousands of other claims from out-of-state plaintiffs, will rely on the June 19th U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states an out-of-state plaintiff couldn’t file suit in California, due to a lack of jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court justices ruled 8-1 in favor of Bristol Myers-Squibb after the company argued plaintiffs living outside California who alleged injury from BMS’s blood thinner Plavix, should not be able to sue the company in that state.

The Supreme Court ruled that, essentially the “all inclusive view of personal jurisdiction by non-resident plaintiffs has come to an end.” Plavix was not designed or made in California, and the company is headquartered in New York. The ruling may simply force thousands of pending cases across the country to be refiled in other venues, as plaintiff firms are not likely to simply withdraw the cases as massive losses, without having their day in one court or another.

A non-residents plaintiff can file suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, if the defendant is either incorporated in Pennsylvania, or has a principal place of business in Pennsylvania, which limits the legal options for Bayer, based on their corporate headquarters in the state.

Two of the biggest mass tort programs in the Philadelphia Complex Litigation Center docket are the Risperdal litigation, which is produced by Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary) and allegedly causes males to develop breasts, Janssen has been hit with several large multi-million dollar verdicts in Risperdal trials. The other is Xarelto, a blood-thinner made by Bayer and Johnson & Johnson that allegedly causes uncontrolled bleeding events, and the makers failed to warn of the dangers. The Xarelto MDL 2592 in US district Court ED Louisiana . see Xarelto MDL 2592 Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase, where close to twenty thousand additional Xarelto cases are pending.

Bayer will be having a much harder time using the BMS Plavix decision to dismiss non-resident plaintiffs from the Philadelphia courtroom, given it’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Boston Scientific Pelvic Mesh Cases Removed From Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Based on SCOTUS “Plavix” Ruling

Boston Scientific Mass Tort Mesh Cases Removed From Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Based On Recent Supreme Court  June 2017, Bristol Myers vs. California Superior Court “Plavix” Ruling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Scientific, Marlborough, MA

By Mark A. York (September 7, 2017)

Plaintiffs who filed suit against Boston Scientific in a Philadelphia court over allegedly defective pelvic mesh, have agreed to have their cases removed from the Pennsylvania Court to other venues based on the June 2017 “Bristol-Myers California Plavix” U.S. Supreme Court opinion.  The Plavix ruling has thrown thousands of non-resident drug and medical device state court cases across the country into turmoil, as the non-resident plaintiffs cannot continue their cases in state courts where they do not reside or the defendant companies are not corporate residents.  This was based on the Supreme Court ruling that stated Bristol-Myers R&D and sales activity in the State of California related to it’s Plavix blood thinner, (see Mass Tort Nexus “Plavix” CA State Court Briefcase) was not enough of a corporate presence to subject them to California state court jurisdiction, resulting in jurisdictional issue across the country for plaintiff firms.

Last month, Boston Scientific filed motions asking the court to remove any cases pending against it in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, citing the Supreme Court’s both the “Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California”, see US Supreme Court Strikes Down State Court Jurisdiction and “BNSF Railway v. Tyrrell”, see SCOTUS Limits What State Court A Corporate Defendant Can Be Sued In.

According to one of the lead attorneys, the parties have agreed to litigate the cases in either Massachusetts, where Boston Scientific has its principal place of business, or in Delaware, it’s state of incorporation.

Kline & Specter attorney Shanin Specter said. “An agreement was reached with Boston Scientific to have the cases heard in a courtroom other than the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, so the cases can move forward and litigate without the jurisdictional issue creating legal issues. Although Boston Scientific’s motion last month sought to remove 94 cases, Specter said only three cases had been moving forward against Boston Scientific with calls placed to Boston Scientific defense counsel Shook, Hardy & Bacon and attorney Joseph Blum seeking comment have not been returned.

Judge New Asked to Reconsider

Last month, Boston Scientific had filed a motion requesting Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Arnold New reconsider his March 2015 decision that the state court had jurisdiction over the mesh cases.  New, who is the supervising judge of Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center, issued a one-page order saying Boston Scientific’s motion was moot.

As part of the motion, Boston Scientific had sought to have New’s 2015 ruling vacated to allow for additional arguments on the issue, and allowing defense counsel to begin pleading the removal of thousands of other non-resident plaintiff cases currently in in the court’s complex litigation docket.

Ethicon Mesh Motion for Removal

Another major defendant in over one thousand pelvic mesh mass cases , Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, has also filed motions recently seeking to have the cases dismissed based the Supreme Court’s recent decisions. Plaintiffs, however, have requested Judge New pend any rulings on these issues, based on the Pennsylvania Superior Court has agreed to consider the matter in a case that is pending before the intermediate court on appeal.

The Supreme Court’s ruling from June 19, 2017 in Bristol-Myers vs. Superior Court of California (see US Supreme Court Denies California State Court Jurisdiction) now seen as the defining game-changing decision, for mass torts in state courts, that has promised to reshape the geography of mass tort litigation across the country. In the ruling, a majority of the Supreme Court determined that plaintiffs suing Bristol-Myers Squibb in California who were not California residents had failed to establish specific jurisdiction over the pharmaceutical giant, since there was no significant link between the claims and Bristol-Myers’ conduct in California. The ruling, according to observers, makes clear that out-of-state plaintiffs can’t sue companies in states where the defendants aren’t considered to be “at home,” or haven’t conducted business directly linked to the claimed injury.

Johnson & Johnson Files For Missouri Removals

Earlier this month, J&J filed a motion in Missouri seeking to dismiss more than 1,300 lawsuits against it over talcum powder, claiming the lawyers had engaged in “blatant forum shopping on a grand scale.” On June 19, 2017 St Louis City Court Judge Rex Burlison declared a mistrial in the fifth talcum powder cancer trial being heard there, which was the afternoon of the SCOTUS “Plavix” ruling, declaring that the opinion earlier that day prevented the trial from moving forward. The trial was reset for October 2017, and the parties are currently arguing the jurisdictional issues of resuming the trial in front of Judge Burlison, see Mistrial Declared in J&J Talc Trial Due to SCOTUS Ruling.

Boston Scientific Argument

In requesting reconsideration regarding the recent Supreme Court decisions, Boston Scientific contends that Pennsylvania state courts no longer have jurisdiction over it. Specifically, the motion said Boston Scientific is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Massachusetts, it does not have sufficient ties to Pennsylvania to render it “at home” in the state, and the plaintiffs are not Pennsylvania residents. The company further says that finding Pennsylvania has jurisdiction simply because the company complies with the state’s business registration statute violates the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution and the now precedent “California Plavix” decision, .

“It is undisputed that Boston Scientific’s principal place of business is Massachusetts while its place of incorporation is Delaware,” the motion said. “Those are the only two jurisdictions where Boston Scientific is so heavily engaged in activity as to render it ‘at home.”

State Court Removal and Refiling Across The Country

The Philadelphia Court of Common Please Complex Litigation Docket appears to be preparing for a departure of many of the thousands of product liability cases, which prior to June 19, 2017 were moving along quite well in the under the direction of Judge Arnold New. State court dockets across the country are now forced to consider the removal of many cases as well as the potential refiling of thousands of cases in the state of incorporation for the medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

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