Jury Adds $70 Million in Damages to $9.8 Million Ethicon Stapler Loss
- $9.8 Million in Compensatory Damages Levied by Jury Last Week
SAN JOSE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Alexander Law Group, LLP announced today that a jury has awarded $70 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Ethicon Endo-Surgery, LLC for injuries to its client caused by a defective Ethicon PPH 03 hemorrhoid stapler.
The same jury had earlier found Ethicon liable for $9.8 million in compensatory damages making the total award to the plaintiffs $79.8 million.
“This is a victory for the hundreds of patients who have been harmed by this known defective stapler,” said Richard Alexander, managing partner for the Alexander Law Group. “Lead attorney Nina Shapirshteyn and counsel Annie Wu did an outstanding job showing the willful intent of this corporation to put profit over the health and safety of people.
“The jury rightfully concluded that Ethicon engaged in reprehensible conduct in knowing about its product’s defects for 10 years and doing nothing to change its design or manufacturing process,” Alexander said.
An 11:30 a.m. press conference to explain the case will be held Tuesday, January 15 at the law firm’s San Jose office, 111 West St. John Street, Suite 700.
The primary plaintiff, Florence Kuhlmann, a retired San Jose police officer, suffered a sealed anal canal and a ruptured bowel from the use of Ethicon’s defective medical device. Her surgeon, Dr. Rakhee Kahn, was also a defendant in the lawsuit and was found blameless by the jury.
Ms. Kuhlmann has been forced to wear a colostomy bag for the past four years and has had multiple unsuccessful medical procedures to restore her damaged bowel and anal canal. Her husband, Dr. John Perkins, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory research scientist, was the other plaintiff.
“Florence and her husband have finally received the justice they have waited so long for,” said lead attorney Nina Shapirshteyn, who has been named a ‘Super Lawyer.’ “The jury understood the essential corruption of this company’s refusing to make its product safer.
“These punitive damages will certainly get the attention of a billion-dollar company and are designed to ensure they will never again put profit above the public’s safety.
“This jury award will also serve as a warning to other billion-dollar corporations,” Shapirshteyn said, “and prevent others in the medical device industry from engaging in similar dangerous behavior at the public’s expense.”
The jury found that the force to fire the stapler exceeded its specifications and was caused by the failure to manufacture the product according to its design requirements. Ethicon knew about this defect for more than 10 years before recalling the product. Rather than changing the design and manufacturing process, Ethicon maliciously blamed the surgeons using the device when they reported repeated malfunctions.
“Doctors are only as good as the tools they use,” Ms. Shapirshteyn stated. “In this case, the doctor was sold a defective product and Ethicon knew it.
“That clearly falls under the ‘reprehensible’ category required for punitive damages,” she concluded.
Eventually, Ethicon was forced to recall 144,693 PPH 03 units sold between 2011 and 2012 because of this dangerous defect—too late for Florence Kuhlmann.
Ms. Shapirshteyn delivered a compelling argument and rebuttal to the defense attorney’s assertion that the case did not merit punitive damages. She powerfully reminded the jury that Ethicon covered up its culpability in not changing the manufacturing process to repair the force-to-fire defect and that Ethicon did not inform its hospital and surgery center customers of the dangerous defects reported by other surgeons.
The jury awarded the plaintiff and her husband $8.5 and $1.3 million respectively for past and future medical costs, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, embarrassment, humiliation and disfigurement. The $70 million in punitive damages came after only two hours and twenty minutes of deliberations by the well-informed jury.
About Alexander Law Group, LLP
Alexander Law Group, LLP is a nationally recognized, award-winning personal injury law firm with offices in San Jose and San Francisco, California. The attorneys of the Alexander Law Group have decades of experience with outstanding results litigating difficult and complex cases against major insurance companies, large corporations, and public and government entities. www.alexanderinjury.com (408) 289-1776
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