Wright Medical (NSDQ:WMGI) yesterday asked a federal judge in Georgia to toss the $11 million verdict from the 1st bellwether trial in the multidistrict litigation filed over its Conserve metal-on-metal hip implant.
An Atlanta jury last year awarded plaintiff Robyn Christiansen $1 million in compensatory damages and another $10 million in punitive damages. The jury found Nov. 24 that the Conserve device was defective and that Wright failed to adequately warn patients about its risks.
The 2-week trial was the 1st of roughly 550 product liability lawsuits filed over the Conserve implant that have been consolidated before Judge William Duffey Jr. of the U.S. District Court for Northern Georgia. The jury, which deliberated for 3 days, initially found that the device was not defectively designed and was not defective when it was sold for implantation in Christiansen.
Yesterday Wright re-submitted a motion for judgment as a matter of law, arguing that Duffey was wrong to re-submit the case to the jury after the 1st verdict came down.
“The court should have dismissed any additional findings by the jury as surplusage and contrary to the instructions on the verdict form and the court’s jury instructions at the end of trial,” Wright argued, according to court documents. “The jury was biased, confused, or both, as reflected by, among other facts, (i) the internal inconsistencies in the original verdict returned on Nov. 20, 2015, (ii) the irreconcilable inconsistencies between the original verdict and 2nd verdict returned on Nov. 24, 2015, and (iii) the jury’s apparent inability to deliberate effectively or follow the court’s instructions.”
As an alternative, should Duffey decline to toss the verdict, he should grant a new trial because the jury ultimately found that Wright proved that the Conserve device could not be made 100% safe and that its benefits outweighed the risks, the company said.
“Plaintiff’s strict liability design defect claim was therefore barred as a matter of law and Wright Medical was entitled to judgment in its favor on plaintiff’s strict liability design defect claim,” Wright argued.
Memphis-based Wright also argued that Duffey erred in his jury instructions when he said the company had to prove that the Conserve device was properly made and had adequate directions and warnings. The negligence finding should also be overturned because the jury didn’t find that Wright failed to use reasonable care.
“There is no legal basis for an award of punitive damages in the verdict returned on November 24, 2015. Punitive damages are not an independent claim under Utah law and can only be awarded in connection with certain claims. As a matter of law, the jury’s finding that Wright Medical made negligent misrepresentations as to the hip replacement components implanted in plaintiff does not support an award of punitive damages under Utah law,” the company averred.
Alternatively, Duffey should strike the punitive damages award because no reasonable jury would have found Wright conduct willful and malicious, intentionally fraudulent or knowingly reckless, the company said. If he declines to toss the punitive award, he should reduce is, Wright said, contending that the 10-to-1 ratio is excessive and contrary to Utah’s 3-to-1 rule.
Christiansen also ought to accept a reduction in the $1 million compensatory damages award because it was “contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence, including the parties’ stipulation as to medical expenses, and disproportionate to any injuries suffered by plaintiff,” Wright said.