Punitive damages awards in product liability matters have reached new heights in recent years. Traditionally, product liability defendants have sought to contest liability in the first instance, and establish that the alleged conduct does not warrant punitive damages specifically
Two recent decisions highlight a perhaps lesser-known defense available in some jurisdictions that can limit or even preclude punitive damages where they have previously been awarded for the same product or conduct.
To read the full text of this article, originally published in Law360, by Duane Morris attorneys Anne Gruner and Ethan Feldman, please visit the firm website.
It is no secret that third-party litigation funding, or TPLF, has become an increasingly common practice. One area particularly affected by this trend is that of mass tort actions and multidistrict litigations, where funding is now more than ever being utilized to finance voluminous and prolonged proceedings.
While courts have historically been reluctant to require disclosure of funding agreements and information, precedent suggests that different approaches may be warranted in the MDL context because of considerations unique to those proceedings — including potential for bias, distortions of control and decision-making as between litigants and funders, and conflicts of interest between funders and the judiciary.
Against this backdrop, advocates of disclosure have taken a proactive role in seeking further changes to rules of discovery and disclosure to address these issues. Litigants should be aware of these emerging efforts toward change, and the reasons underlying them, as the use of litigation funding continues to rise.
To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorneys Anne A. Gruner, Justin M. L. Stern and Nicholas M. Centrella Jr., please visit the firm website.
The most recent talc verdicts have demonstrated some traction in defeating claims based on certain go-to defense strategies, including personal jurisdiction dismissals, the use of expert testimony and Daubert motions discrediting scientific causation, and even requests to jurors to use their “common sense” in evaluating scientific evidence. However, there is another tool that defense attorneys should consider in talc cases: federal preemption.
Part of the mass appeal of talc cases lies in the prevalence of talc-based products in the marketplace, due to the numerous uses for talc in a variety of consumer products across cosmetics, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and even foods. As talc litigation expands into products that may be regulated as OTC drugs, defense counsel should consider the options that they might have in invoking federal preemption as a defense strategy. While the defense remains untested, there is a sound basis for its application. This article will discuss the federal U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory scheme that is applicable to talc-based products and when federal preemption may support an argument for defeating conflicting state law claims against talc-containing OTC drugs.
To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorneys Anne A. Gruner and
Nicholas M. Centrella, Jr., please visit the Duane Morris website.
With the proliferation of consolidated litigation in recent years, various courts have lamented the lack of scrutiny often given to individual cases prior to filing in a class action or multidistrict litigation. Given the structure of these mass proceedings, individual claims frequently do not get meaningfully assessed. Against this backdrop, recent federal court decisions demonstrate courts’ increased willingness to police meritless claims by assessing whether counsel’s pre-suit investigation was adequate.
The first part of this article examined the obligation to conduct a pre-suit investigation under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and reviewed what different courts have said in recent years about meritless claims in mass litigation.
This part will discuss the importance of conducting plaintiff interviews, gathering basic information, avoiding language copied from dissimilar complaints and other issues.
Given the recent pronouncements of courts on the lack of scrutiny applied to individual cases in consolidated litigation, plaintiffs counsel should pay strict attention to Rule 11’s requirements prior to filing suit, particularly in a consolidated litigation, and defense counsel should be aware of the circumstances under which plaintiffs counsel’s efforts fall short of Rule 11’s requirements such that sanctions may be warranted. While the analysis is a factual determination that varies to some extent by jurisdiction, an examination of recent cases provides general guidance.
To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorneys Danielle N. Bagwell and Anne A. Gruner, please visit the Duane Morris website.
With the proliferation of consolidated litigation in recent years, various courts have lamented the lack of scrutiny often given to individual cases prior to filing in a class action or multidistrict litigation. Given the structure of these mass proceedings, where claims are often resolved on a global level, with payout determined by the number of filings, individual claims frequently do not get meaningfully assessed.
This process has an obvious inherent risk of including meritless individual cases. Against this backdrop, recent federal court decisions demonstrate courts’ increased willingness to police meritless claims by assessing whether counsel’s pre-suit investigation was adequate.
The requirement that counsel conduct a meaningful pre-suit investigation is derived from Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 11 states that by filing a pleading, counsel represents that, to the best of their knowledge “formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances,” the legal theories are warranted by existing law or nonfrivolous argument, and the factual contentions have evidentiary support or will have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation.
To read the full article by Duane Morris attorneys Danielle N. Bagwell and Anne A. Gruner, please visit the Duane Morris website.
It is not often that the testimony or circumstances surrounding sales representatives take center stage in a products liability trial involving prescription drugs and medical devices. However, two recent cases involving allegations of improper witness contact by pharmaceutical and medical device sales representatives have brought this issue to the forefront.
They provide a glimpse of the consequences that can arise from such allegations, including putting counsel in the crosshairs of a government inquiry and, perhaps equally damaging, diverting precious trial resources. Examination of these cases provides an overview of why these witnesses may be targeted in witness tampering claims, the extremely serious regard with which courts have considered accusations of witness tampering and how, moving forward, accusations of such impropriety — whether well-founded or not — may become a more likely scenario that can have significant unwanted consequences.
The Recent Case Examples
Recent trials involving DePuy Orthopaedics Inc.’s Pinnacle hip and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s Xarelto blood thinner products illustrate how counsel can attempt to capitalize on sales representatives’ unique role as an intermediary between defendant manufacturers and physicians — who may also be witnesses — by testing the propriety of communications with those sales representatives, who might be parties to the litigation themselves and defended jointly by the manufacturer’s defense counsel. Both cases involve accusations that defense counsel inappropriately used sales representative communications to influence the testimony of a physician witness.
The DePuy Example
In a recent trial involving the DePuy Pinnacle hip product pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas (In re: DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Pinnacle Hip Implant Product Liability Litigation, Case No. 3:15-cv-03489-K), the plaintiffs’ counsel made accusations of witness intimidation and tampering arising out of communications between a company sales representative and a physician witness.
To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorneys Ryan J. O’Neil and Anne A. Gruner, please visit the Duane Morris website.
In a recent decision in a DePuy ASR hip system case (DellaCamera et ux. v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. et al., No. CJC-10-004649, Proceeding No. 4649 (Calif. Super. Ct., San Francisco Cty. Nov. 1, 2017), a California Superior Court held that it has specific personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. (DePuy), Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. (Johnson & Johnson) for nonresident Connecticut-based plaintiffs’ claims on the basis that DePuy and Johnson & Johnson entered into consulting contracts with two California-resident surgeons on the design of the metal-on-metal hip implant device at issue.
This ruling bears noting in the wake of recent landmark personal jurisdiction decisions, including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco Cty., 582 U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017), BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrell, 581 U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 1549 (2017), and of course Daimler v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014), which have armed defendants with tools to limit plaintiff forum shopping by obtaining favorable dismissals for lack of both specific and general personal jurisdiction.
In DePuy, the court latched onto the fact that the nonresident defendants intentionally contracted with in-state consultants who participated in the design of the hip implant product at issue, and that design was part and parcel of plaintiffs’ product liability causes of action. DePuy is not necessarily a novel approach to questions of specific jurisdiction, but it is a relative outlier in the context of the overall trend of cases restricting the ability of plaintiffs to “forum shop” and litigate outside of jurisdictions where defendants are not located and plaintiffs were not actually injured.
Thus, DePuy may foreshadow a new area of focus in which plaintiffs seek to subject defendants to suit in jurisdictions where consulting agreements and other targeted activities are directed, and which are alleged to give rise to plaintiffs’ causes of action.
To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorney Anne Gruner, please go to the Duane Morris website.