Articles Posted in Personal Injury

After hearing thirty-seven days of trial testimony and deliberating for four days, a Texas jury determined that Johnson & Johnson was liable for defectively designing their metal-on-metal hip implants. The lawsuit alleged that Johnson & Johnson aggressively marketed their Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implants for use by younger, more active patients because the metal-on-metal implants were long-lasting, durable and safe despite being aware of the design flaws in the implants, which caused them to fail more frequently and quickly than expected, leading to injuries including tissue death, bone erosion and high levels of metal in their blood. The five Plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit collectively received a $502 million judgment which was comprised of $142 million in compensatory damages and $360 million in punitive damages. The verdict will be split amongst the Plaintiffs based on the severity and impact that each Plaintiff suffered as a result of their individual injuries.

Unfortunately, Johnson & Johnson has vigorously stated since the massive verdict was returned that they will appeal the result. One of the many issues that will certainly be raised on appeal is Texas’ law which caps punitive damages. This means that on appeal the $360 million punitive damage award could be reduced to as low as $10 million.

However, despite a pending appeal and a possible overall reduction in punitive damages, the recent verdict is still an overwhelming triumph for Plaintiffs who suffer from defective metal-on-metal hip implants. Most notably, the recent verdict marks Johnson & Johnson’s first trial loss regarding the use of metal on metal artificial hips. In a prior trial in the same multi-district litigation (“MDL”), Johnson & Johnson was successful in defending a single Plaintiff suit based on its argument that it was the surgeon who installed the implant’s fault instead of the defective implant itself. However, based on this most recent verdict it appears the tide has begun to change in favor of the Plaintiffs, and Johnson & Johnson will no longer be able to overlook its defective product and place blame on the implanting surgeons.

Johnson & Johnson has faced several lawsuits over the past year alleging that Johnson & Johnson knew there was a link between their antipsychotic drug, Risperdal, and abnormal breast growth. Risperdal is a very powerful antipsychotic drug that Johnson & Johnson peddled to pediatric doctors for use by children even though the drug lacked certain approvals from federal regulators. Thus far, Johnson & Johnson has been hit with four separate jury trials all alleging that Johnson & Johnson not only knew that children prescribed Risperdal could develop a condition known as gynecomastia, but also that Johnson & Johnson failed to properly warn and/or disclose the risks of abnormal breast growth in adolescent boys prescribed Risperdal.

The Previous Three Jury Trials

In February 2015 the first Risperdal case was taken to a trial by jury. The jury returned a $2.5 million verdict in favor of the plaintiffs determining that Risperdal did in fact cause the plaintiffs injuries and that Johnson & Johnson failed to provide proper warnings. In the second case, the jury was less convinced as to the causal link between the drug and the plaintiff’s adverse condition. While the jury did agree that Johnson & Johnson failed to provide adequate warnings, the jury was not convinced that Risperdal caused the plaintiffs to develop abnormal breast growth. As such, the second jury awarded no damages against Johnson & Johnson. The third case began October 15, 2015 and the trial is still ongoing. Lead counsel for the young man who developed female breasts after taking Risperdal as a child stated recently that “Risperdal [is] a powerful antipsychotic drug which was promoted and marketed even though it wasn’t indicated for children.”

In the past month, at least three new lawsuits have been filed over birth defects parents allege were caused by Zofran, the popular anti-nausea medication prescribed for off-label use during pregnancy by mothers.  This case, filed in California Superior Court on March 30, 2015, follows two others: one filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on February 12, and another in the District of Massachusetts on February 16.  Each case alleges congenital abnormalities, including heart defects, after the mothers were prescribed Zofran for nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy…a use not approved by the FDA when the drug was approved for market.

The court cases allege, among other things, that the maker of the drug, GlaxoSmithKline, has received more than 200 reports of birth defects in children who were exposed to Zofran during early pregnancy.  Glaxo is also being accused of improperly marketing Zofran to treat pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting, and one lawsuit even notes that Glaxo previously agreed to pay $3 billion to settle charges with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the marketing of a number of other medications.  This prior settlement with the U.S. government included allegations that Glaxo had improperly marketed Zofran to treat morning sickness…the very same claim now asserted by the plaintiffs.

Recent research by scientists with the University of Colorado, Stanford University, and London’s Royal Free Hospital reveled that when taken during pregnancy, Zofran does in fact cross the placenta to reach the developing fetus, and remains longer with the baby than the mother due to a longer half-life (i.e., the elimination rate of the drug in the body).  This was not the first study done regarding these issues.  A previously published study from the journal Clinical Pharmicokinetics, showed that samples taken from 41 women given Zofran prior to surgical pregnancy termination procedures revealed much higher concentrations of the drug within fetal tissues than was anticipated.

On average, Alabama typically experiences over 100 deaths per year associated with fires. Nationally, the average number of deaths per year from fires is around 4,000.  This means that someone is dying from a fire every 3 hours, approximately.  Approximately 75% of all annual deaths from fires involve a residential property.  The US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the total annual cost to society associated with fire losses is a staggering $182 billion.  Residential and non-residential STRUCTURE fires comprise 35% of all annual fires.  Alcohol use contributes to an estimated 40% of residential fire deaths.  Nearly one out of every seven fires to which a fire department responds involves a vehicle.

The fire problem is more severe for some groups than others.  People in the southeast, males, the elderly, African Americans, and American Indians are all at higher risk from fire than the rest of the population.

Fire safety experts recommend that if you are confronted with or facing a residential fire that cannot be easily extinguished to call 911 first before trying to extinguish the fire as many have made the mistake of waiting until the last minute to call 911 which ultimately resulted in damages/injuries that could have been avoided if the fire department had been notified sooner and been able to arrive more promptly.

Can a concussion from playing football really alter my life forever? It is a question that is being asked much more frequently these days, especially when football season rolls around each fall.  When your son first approaches you as a child and asks about playing football, the knee jerk response has typically and historically always been “yes”.   Every young boy should have the opportunity to experience youth football, right?  With an aggressive, intense focus in recent years on concussions and head injuries associated with football, the decision has become much more difficult and should be given careful consideration and forethought.

Years ago, when current-generation fathers started playing football, coaches and parents rarely discussed or dealt with concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).  Was this because kids didn’t sustain concussions as often back then or was it because parents and coaches simply were not as aware of the signs and symptoms of concussions as they are today?  Unfortunately, it is likely the latter.

Recently, investigation and research into the causes and effects of concussions has increased significantly, due largely in part to the tragic death of Junior Seau, one of the NFL’s greatest linebackers.  Junior Seau died on May 2, 2012 from apparent suicide.  Seau’s autopsy suggested that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head.  Studies show that it is not the one big hit but rather, smaller, repeated blows to the head which cause brain damage.  Seau’s family subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL.  The lawsuit blames the NFL for its “acts or omissions” that hid the dangers of repetitive blows to the head.  It also accuses the NFL of deliberately ignoring and concealing evidence of the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries and allowing players to play without proper medical clearance.  While there are sure to be a wide variety of opinions over the merits of the Seau lawsuit and others brought by former NFL players, there is no denying that these incidents and lawsuits are bringing more publicity to the subject.