MINNEAPOLIS - (Mealey's) A Minnesota federal jury on Dec. 8 awarded a plaintiff in the first Levaquin multidistrict litigation bellwether trial a total of $1,815,000 in compensatory and punitive damages after finding that manufacturer Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. failed to warn him that the antibiotic can cause the Achilles tendon to rupture (In Re: Levaquin Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 1943, No. 08-md-1943, John Schedin v. Johnson & Johnson, et al., No. 08-5743, D. Minn.).
In a compensatory verdict, the jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota awarded plaintiff John Schedin $700,000. In a separate verdict form, the jury found that the defendant acted "with deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others" and awarded $1,115,000 in punitive damages.
In the compensatory verdict, the jury apportioned the percentage of fault for compensatory damages as follows: 75 percent for the defendant, 15 percent for the prescribing doctor, Dr. John Beecher, and 10 percent for plaintiff John Schedin. Beecher was not a defendant in the case.
Plaintiff attorney Ronald S. Goldser estimated that the apportionment will reduce the compensatory award to $630,000 but said the punitive award is not reduced by apportionment.
The jury found for Ortho-McNeil-Janssen on the question of whether it violated the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act.
Schedin, now 82, was prescribed a corticosteroid and Levaquin-brand fluoroquinolone antibiotic in 2005 to treat an upper respiratory bronchial infection. Three days later, Schedin developed pain in his Achilles tendons and was later diagnosed with partial ruptures of both tendons.
Schedin said the injuries have seriously restricted his previously active lifestyle.
In 2008, Schedin sued Ortho-McNeil-Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, in the District Court where the Levaquin multidistrict litigation was centralized in 2009. Schedin's case was selected for the first bellwether trial.
Schedin claimed that Levaquin is twice as toxic to tendons as other fluoroquinolones and that risk is greater for elderly patients and those taking corticosteroids concurrently. He claims that Ortho-McNeil-Janssen destroyed an adverse clinical study about Levaquin and tendinopathy and tendon rupture and failed to warn doctors of the risk.
Ortho-McNeil-Janssen argued that Levaquin's FDA-approved label warned physicians about the possibility of tendon rupture since 1996. It said Beecher testified that he was aware of the risk of tendon rupture when he prescribed Levaquin to Schedin.
The trial started Nov. 15. The jury began deliberating Dec. 6 and returned its verdict on Dec. 8.
[Editor's Note: Full coverage will be in the Dec. 16 issue of Mealey's Emerging Drugs & Devices. In the meantime, the verdict form is available at www.mealeysonline.com or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844. Compensatory verdict form. Document #28-101216-013V. Punitive damages verdict form. Document #28-101216-012V. For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]
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