Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics wants a federal judge to grant new trials after it lost a $1 billion judgment to 6 plaintiffs who sued over its metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip implant.
A Dallas jury in December found that the metal-on-metal pinnacle hip implants were designed defectively and that the companies failed to appropriately warn patients of the risks associated with the devices, awarding $32 million in compensatory damages and more than $1 billion in punitive damages to the 6 co-plaintiffs. But Judge Ed Kinkeade of the U.S. District Court for Northern Texas, as he did with a similar, $500 million verdict in a previous Pinnacle lawsuit, again slashed the verdict nearly in half. The plaintiffs have appealed that ruling, according to court documents.
Now DePuy wants Kinkeade to grant new, separate trials. Barring that outcome, the company also filed 7 motions for judgment as a matter of law seeking to overturn the verdict.
“Following a trial that was rife with inflammatory and inadmissible evidence concerning matters that were wholly irrelevant to the core liability issues in the 6 plaintiffs’ cases, the jury found for each plaintiff and returned an astronomical verdict of $1.04 billion dollars. Both the damages and liability components of this verdict were the product of unfairly prejudicial evidence that should have been excluded from trial under even the most permissive interpretations of the Federal Rules of Evidence. As set forth below, if the court does not grant defendants’ [judgment as a matter of law] motions, it should strike the damages as excessive and order new trials on all issues for several reasons,” the company argued, according to the documents.
Citing “the severe prejudice and confusion that resulted from the consolidation of 6 disparate product-liability cases,” DePuy argued that lumping the cases together only confused the jury.
“Defendants repeatedly objected prior to trial that burdening the jury with the task of differentiating the individualized and complex issues arising from the claims of 6 different plaintiffs would result in significant juror confusion and severely prejudice defendants. That is precisely how these cases played out,” the company argued.
DePuy also claimed that it’s entitled to new trials “because plaintiffs injected an enormous amount of unfairly prejudicial evidence into this trial – all of which should have been excluded under any fair reading of the Federal Rules of Evidence and which led the jury to decide the case based on emotion and prejudice rather than reason.”
New trials are also in order because the compensatory and punitive damages awards are “undeniably excessive,” DePuy argued.
“While the court reduced the punitive damages award from the jury’s initial verdict of $1.009 billion to $510,509,667 for the 6 primary plaintiffs, the reduced amount – which is 18 times higher than the inflated award of compensatory damages – still falls far outside the ‘single-digit ratio’ representing the ‘outermost limit of the due process guarantee [emphasis theirs],'” the company wrote.
The lawsuits are the 3rd clutch of bellwether cases to go to trial of the nearly 9,000 in a multi-district litigation overseen by Kinkeade. DePuy won the 1st bellwether trial in the MDL, in October 2014. In July Kinkeade slashed the $500 million judgment in the 2nd bellwether proceeding to roughly $151 million.