A couple of months ago, we reported on a $10 million punitive verdict in the first hip implant case to go to trial against Wright Medical Technology. Last week, Wright Medical filed its opening brief in support of its post-trial motions. From the looks of the brief, Wright Medical has a number of promising arguments.
McPadden v. WalMart Stores East, L.P., No. 14-cv-475, awarded more than $31 million to a former Wal-Mart employee who had worked for the company as a pharmacist. The plaintiff sued for discrimination and retaliation after she was terminated as discipline for losing a pharmacy key. As is common in these cases, the news stories were technically accurate but left a misleading impression of what happened. Continue Reading
About a month ago, we reported on a Delaware trial court decision reducing a $75 million punitive award to $7.5 million in a transvaginal mesh case. Last week, in what we believe to be the first appellate decision in one of these cases, the Fourth Circuit upheld a verdict of $250,000 in compensatory damages and $1.75 million in punitive damages.
In a post a few weeks ago, I reported on a verdict by a federal jury in Atlanta awarding $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages against the manufacturer of a hip implant. Not to be outdone, on December 14 a state-court jury in California awarded $9.8 million in compensatory damages and an eye-popping $70 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon in a case alleging defects in a hemorrhoid stapler used to perform surgery on a hemorrhoid suffer. Continue Reading
Last week, we posted about a $10 million award of punitive damages in a product liability action against a manufacturer of hip implants. We explained our view that the award was excessive, in part because hundreds of similar cases are pending across the country.
We’ve also been following a much larger set of cases against medical device manufacturers—those involving injuries allegedly resulting from the use of surgical mesh to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. An astonishing 85,000 cases against surgical mesh manufacturers have been centralized for pre-trial proceedings in federal district court in West Virginia, and thousands of additional cases have been filed in state courts. As may be inevitable with so many turns of the Roulette wheel, a few plaintiffs have hit the jackpot.
The biggest verdict so far came last May, when a Delaware jury returned a $100 million award against Boston Scientific—comprising $25 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages. In an October 9 order, the trial court in Barbra v. Boston Scientific Corp. reduced the verdict by a factor of ten—leaving Boston Scientific facing a judgment of $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $7.5 million in punitive damages. That’s obviously a substantial improvement, but in our view the reduced award remains quite excessive. Continue Reading
In a post last month, we reported on a district court’s rulings on motions in limine in the first bellwether hip implant trial against Wright Medical Technology Incorporated. The case subsequently went to trial, and last week a federal jury in Atlanta returned a jaw-dropping verdict of $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.
The jury found that the plaintiff’s hip implant was defectively designed and that the defendant negligently misrepresented how long the device would last. In addition, the jury found that, in marketing the hip implant, the defendant demonstrated knowing and reckless indifference to the rights of others—the standard for imposition of punitive damages under the applicable state law (Utah). Continue Reading
As we noted in a post earlier this year, the Missouri courts seem to produce more than their fair share of opinions on punitive damages issues. About a year ago we wrote a post addressing the errors in the Missouri Supreme Court’s excessiveness analysis in Lewellen v. Franklin and a second post about the court’s holding in the same case that Missouri’s cap on punitive damages violates the state constitution as applied to common-law causes of action.
Today’s topic is the Missouri Court of Appeals’ decision in Diaz v. AutoZoners, LLC. Though adding to the bad case law on excessiveness, the decision makes some helpful law on the test for determining whether a parent company is an employer for purposes of employment-discrimination cases. Continue Reading
As we have observed in a prior post, defendants in punitive damages cases often fail to develop evidence in mitigation of the amount of punitive damages, enabling the plaintiff to focus the jury on evidence about the defendant’s wealth and to argue—essentially with no resistance—that a substantial award of punitive damages will be necessary to change the defendant’s conduct in light of that wealth.
Bucking this trend, Wright Medical Technology and Wright Medical Group, the defendants in multidistrict litigation alleging defects in their hip implants, have developed evidence designed to persuade juries that large punitive awards would be unnecessary and counterproductive. In particular, the Wright Medical defendants have developed evidence about the various deleterious effects that a large punitive award might have. They also have developed evidence relating to their good “corporate character.”
Cases in which an appellate court holds that a state’s standard for punitive liability was not satisfied even though there was sufficient evidence to support liability for the underlying causes of action are regrettably rare. But in Nissan Motor Co. v. Maddox, the Kentucky Supreme Court recently did just that and in the process set forth some principles that may be helpful to defendants in future cases.
Congratulations to the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform for its recently issued report on the legal climate of the various states. The report is a thoroughly researched and elegantly presented compilation of information about various elements of each state’s legal climate. Based on a survey of in-house counsel, the report ranks the states by overall legal climate, as well as on various aspects of the legal climate.
As in ILR’s previous two reports, Delaware is the overall winner, followed by Vermont, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Hampshire. (Notably, both Nebraska and New Hampshire ban punitive damages.) West Virginia ranks last, followed by Louisiana, Illinois, California, and (somewhat to my surprise) Alabama.
The report includes a very cool interactive map. Readers can click on a state and be brought to a page that is chock full of information about the state’s legal climate. The ILR also came up with a nifty video presentation on each state that is a take off on election night TV coverage.