Allen v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America
A jury in Lousiana awarded more than $9 billion to a New York couple in a bellwether trial in federal court over claims that taking diabetes drug Actos increases the risk of bladder cancer. The April 7 verdict, the first of 3,000-plus lawsuits coordinated before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in Lafayette, La., is bad news for defendants Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co. They are represented by Sara Gourley at Sidley Austin and Bruce Parker at Venable, who tried the case together and are jointly overseeing the litigation.
The companies said in a statement that the facts didn’t support the outcome and vowed to appeal. (Lilly said that Takeda has agreed to indemnify it for losses and expenses related to the Actos litigation.)
The plaintiff, Terrence Allen, who began taking Actos in 2006, sued in 2011 shortly after he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Six months later, Takeda changed the Actos label to reflect new warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that taking the drug for more than a year might be associated with an increased risk of the cancer.
Allen looked to W. Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm to lead at trial; Richard Arsenault of Neblett, Beard & Arsenault in Alexandria, La., and Paul Pennock at New York’s Weitz & Luxenberg are coleading the MDL plaintiffs’ steering committee. The trial also featured sanctions against Takeda over deleted emails and allegations that a former Eli Lilly marketing executive lied in his testimony during trial.
The jury found both companies negligent in failing to warn patients about the drug’s cancer risks, awarding $1.475 million in compensatory damages. Takeda was found 75 percent liable and Lilly 25 percent. Concluding that both were reckless in marketing the drug, jurors also awarded $9 billion in punitive damages, $6 billion against Takeda and $3 billion against Lilly.
At press time a second federal bellwether trial, originally scheduled for April 14, had been postponed.—Amanda Bronstad, with Rebekah Mintzer
ViaSat v. Space Systems/Loral
Patent litigators at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan nabbed a $283 million plaintiffs verdict on April 24 in a dustup between two satellite technology companies.
After two weeks of deliberation, a federal jury in San Diego determined that Space Systems/Loral LLC infringed on patents belonging to Quinn Emanuel client ViaSat Inc. Jurors also found that SS/L violated nondisclosure agreements by sharing the satellite technology at issue with one of ViaSat’s fiercest competitors, Hughes Communications Inc. (Hughes wasn’t named as a defendant.) The jury ordered SS/L to pay ViaSat $181 million on the patent infringement claims and $102 million for breach of contract.
ViaSat and Hughes are designers of broadband Internet satellites. SS/L, which bills itself as “the world leader in commercial satellite manufacturing,” has manufactured equipment for both companies.
In a 2012 complaint, ViaSat alleged that it shared proprietary information with SS/L beginning in 2006, after hiring the company to help it build a satellite. In June 2009, SS/L announced that it was building a similar satellite for Hughes. ViaSat, tapping Quinn Emanuel’s Charles Verhoeven, argued that its proprietary information was used to make Hughes’ competing satellite. SS/L, which was represented by Susman Godfrey partners William Carmody and Jacob Buchdahl throughout, argued that the satellite technology at issue was its own invention.—Jan Wolfe
E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Company v. Kolon Industries, Inc.
An appeals court vacated a $919 million jury verdict that E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. won against a South Korean competitor in a trade secrets theft case, handing a big win on April 3 to appellate ace Paul Clement of Bancroft PLLC and cocounsel at Paul Hastings.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Kolon Industries Inc. is entitled to a new trial on claims that it misappropriated trade secrets relating to DuPont’s lucrative Kevlar product, a synthetic fiber that is both tough and lightweight. The court ruled that U.S. District Judge Robert Payne in Richmond erred in blocking Kolon from arguing that DuPont had partially waived Kevlar’s protected trade secret status by divulging details about it in a court case against another competitor. In a separate decision, the same Fourth Circuit panel affirmed Payne’s dismissal of counterclaims by Kolon accusing DuPont of violating antitrust laws.
In the trade secrets part of the case, Clement argued for Kolon, and Adam Charnes of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton argued for DuPont. For the antitrust counterclaims, Kolon turned to Stephen Kinnaird of Paul Hastings, who squared off against Kent Gardiner at Crowell & Moring.
Kolon began selling another reinforced synthetic fiber in 2005 to compete with Kevlar, hiring a former DuPont engineer as a consultant. In a 2009 lawsuit, DuPont alleged that Kolon pumped the engineer for confidential information. Kolon, looking to Paul Hastings’ Jeff Randall, counterclaimed that DuPont attempted to monopolize the market for Kevlar-like products through anticompetitive supply agreements with customers.
Shortly before the 2011 trial, citing concern that the information would confuse jurors, Judge Payne refused to let Kolon present evidence to bolster its contention that much of the technology at issue had lost its trade secrets protection because of DuPont’s disclosures in a lawsuit it brought in the 1980s against another competitor. He also noted that Kolon failed to produce any evidence that trade secrets were disclosed by DuPont [Big Suits, December 2011].
That was too stringent a standard, the Fourth Circuit wrote, concluding that Kolon simply needed to show a substantial similarity between the technology that it’s accused of misappropriating and the one at issue in the other litigation—a standard it clearly met. —J.W., with R.M.
Wexler v. KPMG LLP et al
A New York state court judge dismissed investor claims on April 1 that Tremont Group Holdings ignored red flags when it encouraged investors to put their money into Bernard Madoff’s funds. Plaintiffs attorneys had based their complaint against Tremont and third-party banks and auditors on an exclusive jailhouse meeting with Madoff in 2009.
The case was brought by one of Tremont’s investors, Jay Wexler, against Tremont, the second-largest of the so-called feeder funds that helped to fuel Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Wexler, who lost more than $400,000 in the Madoff Ponzi scheme, tapped Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy’s Joseph Cotchett to bring claims both individually as well as derivatively, on behalf of a Tremont-controlled fund.
But on April 1, New York Supreme Court Justice Richard Lowe III dismissed the derivative claims on grounds that they were barred by an earlier settlement Tremont reached with investors in a similar federal case. He also dismissed Wexler’s individual claims, which included fraudulent inducement and negligent misrepresentation, finding that Wexler had offered little evidence that Tremont had ignored red flags suggesting Madoff was a crook. Also tossed were parallel claims against Tremont’s parent company, Oppenheimer Acquisition Corp., and Oppenheimer’s parent, Mass Mutual Life Insurance Co.
Seth Schwartz of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom represented Tremont. Oppenheimer turned to David Kotler at Dechert, and Carol Head of Bingham McCutchen represented Mass Mutual.
Motions to dismiss by KPMG and JPMorgan were pending at press time.—J.W., with R.M.