Wright Medical (NSDQ:WMGI) wants a federal appeals court to overturn the verdict in the 1st bellwether trial over its Conserve metal-on-metal hip implant, arguing that a new trial is warranted because the jury had 2 bites at the apple.
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 for the hundreds of 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. But Duffey sent the jury back into deliberation, believing that the finding of no design defect was inconsistent with the jury’s answers to questions that followed, according to court documents.
Wright filed 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. Although the judge cut the punitive damages award from $10 million to $1 million, he denied Wright’s bid for a new trial.
Yesterday Wright asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to vacate the verdict, claiming that the 1st verdict – that the Conserve device was not defectively designed – should have ended the case.
“Wright Medical is entitled to judgment in its favor or, at the very least, a new trial based on the district court’s handling of the verdicts. There was no inconsistency in the 1st verdict that authorized resubmission. By continuing to answer questions after finding no design defect, the jury acted contrary to law and to the instructions on the verdict form. The jury’s inexplicable changes in the 2nd verdict further reflected a deliberative process that had gone off the rails. Particularly in the context of the first bellwether trial in a large [multi-district litigation], the risk of prejudice to Wright Medical from the handling of the trial weighs strongly in favor of setting aside the judgment,” Wright claimed in its appeal.