By Nate Raymond
April 25 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday
secured a favorable U.S. appellate court ruling, overturning a
verdict that had awarded $151 million to five people who blamed
injuries they suffered on the company's Pinnacle hip implant
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said two of the
plaintiffs' defective marketing claims were legally insufficient
and a new trial was required overall in the case because of a
judge's evidentiary rulings and "deceptions" by their lawyer.
U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith, writing for the three-judge
panel, said U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade in Dallas erred in
allowing the hip implant recipients' lawyers to present certain
"inflammatory character evidence" about J&J.
Smith said the "most problematic evidence" were bribes J&J
paid to "henchmen" of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, allegations
stemming from the company's agreement in 2011 to pay $70 million
to resolve U.S. foreign bribery probes.
"Because the taint is unmistakable, the verdict cannot
stand," Smith wrote.
He also said two of the plaintiffs, Donald Greer and Robert
Peterson, had presented no evidence suggesting the doctors who
treated them had even encountered the allegedly inadequate
warnings the company issued about Pinnacle's risks.
Smith said "falsehoods" that the plaintiffs' lead lawyer,
Mark Lanier, made at trial about whether two doctors were
compensated to testify as experts had also "marred plaintiffs;
Lanier said he believed the court "misunderstood" the issues
but would not appeal and would seek a retrial as quickly as
John Beisner, a lawyer for J&J and its DePuy unit, said the
ruling "makes clear, the trial was rife with errors that made it
impossible for defendants to get a fair trial." He said he
looked forward to a retrial on a "level playing field."
DePuy ceased selling the metal-on-metal Pinnacle devices in
2013 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strengthened
its artificial hip regulations.
The Pinnacle devices are now the subject of around 10,000
product liability lawsuits, according to J&J.
The case at issue was a so-called bellwether, or test, trial
aimed at allowing the parties to gauge the value of the
remaining claims and inform potential settlement talks.
A federal jury in Dallas awarded five plaintiffs - Greer,
Peterson, Margaret Aoki, Jay Christopher, and Richard Klusmann
-$502 million in March 2016.
Kinkeade later reduced the award to $151 million.
DePuy prevailed in one other federal trial but was hit in
two others with verdicts worth $543 million, after a post-trial
reduction, and $247 million.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Himani Sarkar)
© 2018 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Thomson Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. "Reuters" and the Reuters Logo are trademarks of Thomson Reuters and its affiliated companies.