Hartman v. Janssen
Date of Verdict:
Court and Case No.:
Type of Action:
Gary Douglas of Douglas and London, New York; Ned McWilliams of Levin Papantonio, Pensacola, Florida; Michael Weinkowitz of Levin Sedran & Berman, Philadelphia. Defense Counsel:
Beth Wilkinson of Wilkinson, Walsh + Eskovitz, Washington, D.C. Plaintiffs Expert:
David Kessler, labeling. Defense Expert:
Tanya Dutta, Hawthorne, New York.
A Philadelphia jury awarded nearly $28 million to the plaintiffs in the first bellwether trial to take place in state court over the blood thinner Xarelto. The verdict came after three straight losses for plaintiffs in federal court.
The jury handed up the verdict against Bayer and Janssen Pharmaceuticals on Dec. 5, awarding plaintiff Lynn Hartman $1.8 million in compensatory damages and $26 million in punitive damages. The verdict came after nearly one month of trial before Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Erdos.
Hartman was the first bellwether trial to begin in state court. Over the summer, defendants won all three cases that went to trial from the consolidated litigation being handled in federal court. More than 18,000 cases are pending in the federal multidistrict litigation over Xarelto, which makes it the second largest litigation nationwide, second only to the consolidated pelvic mesh litigation. More than 1,500 Xarelto cases are pending in Philadelphia.
The mass tort is focused on claims that the drugmakers failed to adequately warn about the danger of suffering a severe bleed, especially when patients took Xarelto in combination with Aspirin.
Hartman was closely watched by attorneys given the difficult time plaintiffs have had in federal court, and, although most of the trial focused on the label and the drug’s ability to cause Hartman’s bleed, the litigation took a few contentious and unexpected turns over the past month.
The start of the trial was delayed after the plaintiffs alleged a Janssen sales representative had improperly contacted a witness prior to an important deposition. Although the judge allowed parties to depose the sales rep, the judge ultimately denied the plaintiffs’ requests, and declined to block the witness’ testimony.
Also, during closing arguments, the trial took a political turn, with attorneys from both sides referencing fake news, growing xenophobia and even a quote from Michelle Obama. Lead trial counsel for the plaintiffs, Gary Douglas of Douglas and London, said the verdict was “vindication.”
“This was a great verdict for Mrs. Hartman and a great win for exposing the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
In an emailed statement, Levin Sedran & Berman attorney Michael Weinkowitz, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was pleased with the verdict.
“The serious health complications suffered by thousands of patients could have been avoided if physicians were properly instructed about the risks, and if patients were given the choice to switch to Eliquis and Pradaxa, which are safer and far more effective,” he said.
Bayer spokesman Christopher Loder said in an emailed statement that the company plans to appeal.
“Bayer stands behind the safety and efficacy of Xarelto, believes there is no basis in fact for the verdict, including the punitive award, and plans to appeal,” he said. “Xarelto’s safety and efficacy is supported by both real-world experience with 31 million patients and expert health regulators in 130 countries, and its FDA-approved label provides accurate and science-based information on the medicine’s benefits and risks.”
A spokeswoman for Janssen, Sarah Freeman, said in an emailed statement that Janssen also plans to appeal.
“This verdict contradicts years of scientific data and the FDA’s repeated confirmation of Xarelto’s safety and efficacy,” she said. “Hartman is the fourth Xarelto trial and the first state trial to date. In each of the three federal multidistrict litigation Xarelto trials, juries returned decisions in favor of the company.”
The defendants were represented at trial by Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz attorney Beth Wilkinson.
—Max Mitchell, of the Law Weekly