Lessons Emerging from Pinnacle Hip Bellwether Trials1/6/2017byJames Heller | Cozen O’ConnorinShareSend Embed ContactIn a staggering verdict, a Texas jury recently awarded over $1 billion against Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) and its subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. (“DePuy”) (collectively referred to as “Defendants”) to six California plaintiffs who claimed the companies’ Pinnacle hip system’s Ultamet metal-on-metal implant caused metallosis, tissue death, bone erosion and other serious injuries.Presently there are 9,000 plus lawsuits consolidated in a Multi-District Litigation or “MDL” presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade in the Northern District of Texas. This latest verdict was the result of the third bellwether test trial addressing the Pinnacle hip system, the first two of which had differing results. J&J won the first trial in 2014, but lost the second trial earlier this year when another Texas jury returned a $502 million verdict against J&J, which was later reduced to $150 million pursuant to Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code Section 41.008(b) which caps exemplary damages. After the second trial, J&J moved to stay additional trials pending the resolution of the appeal of the second trial. J&J argued that several pieces of critical but inflammatory and prejudicial evidence were presented to the jury in addition to several other issues that the defendants wanted resolved by the Fifth Circuit prior to proceeding on with the rest of the cases. The Court ruled against the stay noting that the next trial would involve Plaintiffs from California, “rather than Texas or Montana like the previous bellwether trials, and will therefore present different legal and evidentiary rulings.” (Dkt. 665) The Court also pointed out that both sides agreed to this particular bellwether process to be supported and directed by the court. This is an important take away for future litigation. First, it is important, indeed imperative, to make any objections in a timely manner in order to preserve them. Second, it is very important when selecting the bellwether process to consider the different and unique legal theories presented in each unique case.
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