The start of the first Xarelto trial in Philadelphia was sidelined Monday morning by a motion alleging that a Janssen Pharmaceutical sales representative may have influenced the testimony of a key witness in the case.

Opening statements were set to begin Monday before a jury in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Erdos’ courtroom, but instead parties spent much of the morning arguing about the potential significance of a meeting between the plaintiff’s treating physician, Dr. James Aldridge, and a sales representative for subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, which developed Xarelto.

Although counsel for the defendants characterized the meeting as a routine contact that had nothing to do with the Xarelto litigation, counsel for the plaintiffs said the situation was similar to what may have occurred with a witness in a bellwether trial involving DePuy Orthopedics, in which a federal judge in Texas recently called in the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office to look into alleged witness tampering. DePuy is also a J&J subsidiary.

Counsel for the plaintiffs told Erdos that the doctor’s testimony went from indicating that plaintiff Lynn 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.

“Dr. Aldridge completely flip-flopped,” Levin Sedran & Berman attorney Michael Weinkowitz said to Erdos.

According to counsel for the plaintiffs, they were not told about the meeting before they deposed the witness, and were only recently told of the meeting, so they had no chance to question either the doctor or the sales representative before trial.

The attorneys further said defense counsel deflected questions about the meeting, and the plaintiffs counsel only began to “put the dots together” after reading about the DePuy allegations in Texas. Specifically telling, according to plaintiffs counsel, was that the first time Janssen sales representatives met with Aldridge was at that meeting, which was only weeks before the depositions, and that one firm was involved in both the DePuy case and the Hartman case—Drinker Biddle & Reath.

“It does raise a red flag,” attorney Gary Douglas of Douglas & London said.

Defense counsel, however, responded that the plaintiffs were “putting together a story” based on a single note saying there had been a meeting between a sales representative and the doctor, and told Erdos that Aldridge’s testimony was consistent with the notes he took at the time of treatment.

Drinker Biddle attorney Rodney Hudson said the plaintiff’s motion was based on “really gross speculation and innuendo.” He added that defense counsel had only recently been told about the meeting between the sales rep and Aldridge, and said they passed that information to opposing counsel once they knew.

“There is absolutely nothing in this record to support that anything improper was happening,” Hudson said.

Ultimately, the plaintiffs asked the court to preclude Aldridge from testifying. Erdos said he would review the testimony, and indicated that attorneys might have to avoid mentioning Aldridge during their opening statements.

Later on Monday, counsel for the defense further said the sales representative only placed a call to the doctor’s office, and never spoke or met with the doctor.

Max Mitchell can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or mmitchell@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @MMitchellTLI.