A weekly update on interesting numbers in product liability, class action and mass tort news from July 21–July 27. Published Fridays.
Out of 111, the number of brains of NFL players found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease. In research published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee and colleagues studied over 200 brains from deceased football players. Although Dr. McKee admits that there is a selection bias—you’re unlikely to donate your brain to science if you think everything’s fine—the study still finds that the minimum prevalence of CTE in NFL players is 9 percent, much higher than the general population. After years of denial, the League admitted last year that playing football carried a risk of developing CTE. This year, the League settled a lawsuit with thousands of former NFL players, agreeing to pay out up to $5 million for individuals harmed by CTE.
The number of wins Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has had in Pennsylvania cases over their pelvic mesh products. J&J had caught a break after losing four straight trials with multi-million dollar verdicts, getting their first win in the fifth case to go to trial in Philadelphia. However, last week, a state court judge overturned part of that win in favor of plaintiff Kimberly Adkins. The jury had found that the meshes were defective, but concluded that Ms. Adkins’ injuries were not caused by the device. The judge found this decision was inconsistent and ordered J&J to face damages.
The number of talcum powder cases centralized in Los Angeles. Opening statements for a bellwether trial we’ve previously featured in this column were presented this week. Plaintiff Eva Echeverria claims that she developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s talc products. She alleges that the company concealed information that their talc products could cause ovarian cancer. Cases making similar claims have resulted in over $300 million in verdicts against J&J. Though J&J remains the subject of thousands of cases in Missouri concerning their talc products, a plaintiff verdict in this high-profile case could encourage even more litigation against the company.
The verdict Nicholas Murray won against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary. Murray won the verdict in 2015, convincing a jury that Risperdal caused him to grow breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia. However, his award was reduced to a maximum of $680,000 after a judge found that the verdict was subject to Maryland law limiting noneconomic damages. Murray was also told that he could not pursue punitive damages against Janssen due to a New Jersey law. This week, Murray’s representation argued in appeals court that punitive damages should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If their argument is successful, it could impact the awards for over 6,000 Risperdal cases pending as part of a mass tort against Janssen.
The number of Xarelto bellwether trials Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Bayer AG have faced. This week, judge Eldon Fallon ruled that the companies would have to face all of the claims in the third bellwether trial against the drug, denying Janssen and Bayer’s motions for partial summary judgment. Plaintiffs accuse the manufacturers of Xarelto of knowingly putting patients at risk for uncontrollable bleeding and other life-threatening side effects. Janssen and Bayer have won the previous two bellwether trials, successfully arguing that they provided sufficient warnings about the risks associated with the drug. The companies are still the subjects of over 18,000 cases related to alleged Xarelto injuries.
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