Will Future Levaquin Settlements Include Punitive Damages?
As victims of Levaquin tendon rupture await the outcome of a third federal bellwether trial in November 2011, hopes are high for a swing back to the plaintiff’s side. The most recent lawsuit, the second bellwether trial, ended in a verdict for the defendant Johnson & Johnson, with the jury agreeing that Calvin Christensen and his doctor were well aware of the risks of Levaquin side effects when they used it to treat Christensen’s pneumonia.
The first bellwether trial, however, filed by plaintiff John Schedin, resulted in $630,000 in compensatory damages—and $1.1 million in punitive damages. Is it possible the jury for the third trial will award punitive damages? Could a New Jersey or California Levaquin lawsuit result in such an outcome?
What are Levaquin lawsuit punitive damages?
Unlike compensatory damages, which are meant to provide a plaintiff with the money necessary to replace what he or she lost when having to pay for things like hospital bills and lost wages, punitive damages are awarded strictly to punish the defendants for their conduct, in the hopes of discouraging them from similar actions in the future. Words associated with the justification of punitive damages include “bad faith,” “fraud,” “malice,” and “reckless.”
Schedin’s lawsuit resulted in a substantial award for compensatory damages, but an even richer award for punitive damages. The jury was obviously convinced that Johnson and Johnson had acted irresponsibly in failing to warn patients and healthcare professionals of the serious risk of Levaquin tendon rupture.
“We talked a lot about the responsibility the company had to the general public, as far as safety goes,” said Zach Rawson, a juror from Rochester, Minnesota, after the trial. “We felt that they didn’t warn adequately, that they didn’t use enough means of warning the public, especially the doctors.”
“They obfuscated and manipulated the truth for profit,” said Shedin’s Levaquin lawyer.
Might other juries award punitive Levaquin settlements?
Whether or not a future Levaquin lawsuit might result in more punitive damages remains to be seen. With Schedin’s trial already punishing Johnson & Johnson, it’s unclear if other juries will feel additional retribution is necessary. The company has several things working against them, however.
For example, when pressure mounted in Europe concerning Levaquin side effects, Johnson & Johnson sent letters to doctors warning them of the risks, but failed to send similar letters in the United States. In addition, data from the FDA’s Adverse Event database indicated that occurrences of tendon rupture were significantly higher than any of the other drugs in its class as early as 2005.
Further, Schedin and his Levaquin lawyer succeeded in convincing United States District Court Judge John R. Tunheim to lift the protective order on all documents used as evidence in Shedin’s trial, making them available to the public and to future lawsuits.
Finally, even if the federal courts decide to be done with punishing Johnson & Johnson, thousands of Levaquin lawsuits still await trials in state courts, where juries may prove more sympathetic to victims of Levaquin tendon rupture, and more unforgiving of Johnson & Johnson’s alleged disregard for public safety.