Case Results

The following Case Results are meant to serve as an example of our litigation potential.  Prior results do not serve as a guarantee of future success.

19.9 Million Dollar Verdict for Pipeline Explosion and Burn Injuries

Watts Guerra LLP client, Luis Moreno, suffered burns over 57% of his body as the result of pipeline explosion in June 2008.  Last week, after a three week trial by WG lawyers Mikal Watts, John Ramsey and Cesar Perez, a jury in Harris County, Texas awarded Mr. Moreno and two other plaintiffs approximately 19.9 million dollars for the damages suffered as a result of the Vanderbilt pipeline explosion.

According to the Victoria Advocate:

A Harris County jury returned a hefty verdict on Tuesday for the families of three men burned in a 2008 Vanderbilt pipeline explosion. The jury deliberated for around two days before awarding Luis Moreno, Meliton Lerma and Genaro Castillo $19.9 million for injuries they sustained from the incident.  ”All of these damages were for actual damages. None were for punitive damages,” said Houston-based attorney John C. Ramsey, one of the attorneys who represented the Moreno family.  Calls to the defense attorneys in the case were not immediately returned.  In June 2008, the three victims were performing demolition work at a Hilcorp Energy-operated gas plant located on the West Ranch, on Farm-to-Market Road 616 West – about a mile south of Vanderbilt.  Hilcorp contracted with Austin-based A&R Demolition to perform demolition work on a decommissioned portion of the plant.  In turn, A&R hired RCS Demolition of Midland to remove flange valves from the gas plant.  The three victims were among the hired RCS employees.  During their second week of work, the RCS crew members came across a pocket of residual hydrocarbons while using their cutting torch, which caused an explosion and fire.  During discovery, Hilcorp admitted they did not properly vent, purge and clean all the lines prior to the commencement of the demolition project.  But they never warned its contractor or subcontractors of the hidden danger, said a news release.  During the trial, A&R’s attorneys claimed Hilcorp and A&R told its contractors and subcontractors that this was to be a no fire project, and cutting torches were prohibited.  Despite this alleged warning, A&R’s own crew used cutting torches during the entire project.  ”They were systematically abusing their own rules if that was in fact the policy,” said Ramsey.  The jury found that both A&R and Hilcorp were negligent in causing the fire.  They also apportioned some responsibility to RCS and a small percentage to the plaintiff.  Moreno suffered second and third-degree burns to 57 percent of his body, while Castillo had burns over 10 percent of his body.  Lerma, who received burns over 50 percent of his body, died from his injuries.  ”We were very pleased with the jury verdict,” said Ramsey.  The verdict was split three ways, with Moreno receiving approximately $13 million to compensate for his $536,000 in past medical bills and an expected $1.2 million in future medical bills, as well as compensation for injuries sustained.

Watts Guerra LLP attorneys Mikal Watts, Cesar Perez, and John Ramsey represented Mr. Moreno at trial.  Attorney John Ramsey commented, “This verdict resulted from 12 Harris County jurors hearing all of the evidence and determining that due to the negligence of the defendants, Mr. Moreno suffered serious personal injuries.  We are glad that Mr. Moreno was able to find the justice that he deserved.”

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$1,800,000.00 Verdict Obtained for Man Injured by the Drug Levaquin

On December 8, 2010, Mikal Watts, partner at Watts Guerra LLP, finished closing arguments in the first Levaquin trial in the nation.  The hotly contested trial, which featured some of the finest defense lawyers from around the country, lasted nearly three weeks.  All sides put forth extensive evidence, studies and expert testimony to prove up their cases.  The defense fought hard until closing arguments to persuade the jury that Levaquin was a safe drug.  Thanks to the efforts of Mikal Watts and others involved in the trial, the defense arguments fell on deaf ears.

The jury deliberated for less than two days before awarding $700,000.00 in actual damages to the plaintiff who had been injured as a result of his use of Levaquin.  After announcing their verdict, the jury then heard arguments from Mikal Watts in the punitive phase of the trial.  When Watts finished his arguments in the punitive phase, the outcome was all but determined.  The jury deliberated only a couple more hours before awarding the injured plaintiff an additional $1,100,000.00 in punitive damages.  These damages were requested by Mikal Watts to punish the company for their actions, and the jury agreed, handing down this stiff penalty to combine for a $1,800.000.00 verdict for the plaintiff.

As reported by Bloomberg.com:

J&J Loses First Trial on Warnings of Levaquin Risk

By Margaret Cronin Fisk and Beth Hawkins – Dec 8, 2010

Johnson & Johnson must pay $1.1 million in punitive damages to an 82-year-old man who claimed it failed to properly warn of the risks of tendon damage linked to its antibiotic Levaquin, a Minnesota jury said.

The federal court jury in Minneapolis today also awarded compensatory damages of $700,000 in the case of John Schedin, who sued J&J and its Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit in 2008. Schedin, who said he ruptured both Achilles tendons after taking Levaquin, claimed the companies failed to warn doctors and patients of the drug’s association with tendon damage.

The trial was the first on more than 2,600 claims in U.S. courts alleging that Levaquin caused tendon damage in patients and that New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J failed to disclose the risk adequately. The jury today, in ordering punitive damages, found the company acted with deliberate disregard for the safety of others.

“We talked a lot about the responsibility the company had to the general public, as far as safety goes,” Zach Rawson, a juror from Rochester, Minnesota, said 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.”

Ortho-McNeil-Janssen will appeal, said Michael Heinley, a company spokesman.

“The verdict and the amount of the compensatory and punitive damages are at odds with the evidence presented at trial,” Heinley said in an e-mailed statement.

‘Properly Informed’

“We believe Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. properly informed of the benefits and risks associated with the use of Levaquin, and that the company acted responsibly,” he said.

The jury’s $700,000 award of actual damages will be reduced to $630,000 on its finding that Schedin was 10 percent liable for the injury, Heinley said. The jury rejected Schedin’s claim that Ortho-McNeil-Janssen violated Minnesota’s consumer fraud law by misrepresenting or concealing information about Levaquin.

“We’re thrilled with the outcome and feel the jury followed the evidence and came to the right decision,” Schedin’s attorney, Mikal Watts, said in an interview after the verdict. “They sent a clear message: Pharmaceutical companies should put their patients ahead of their profits.”

A status conference on cases in federal court in Minnesota will be held “right after” the first of the year, U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim, who is overseeing those suits, said in court today.

Case Conference

The next case for trial should be selected at this conference, Lewis Saul, a plaintiffs’ attorney, said in an interview today.

In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required J&J and makers of related drugs in the class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones to include warnings on the risk of tendon ruptures. The risk was higher in patients older than 60, those taking steroids, and recipients of kidney, heart or lung transplants, the FDA said.

The plaintiffs claim the label warning should have been improved earlier and remains inadequate. They also say J&J and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen boosted sales by downplaying risks.

“They obfuscated and manipulated the truth for profit,” Watts said Dec. 6 in his closing arguments in the trial. “It was a one-drug franchise that was crucial to the health of this company.”

430 Million Prescriptions

The drug has been prescribed more than 430 million times worldwide, company lawyers said in a court filing last month. Sales of the drug through the first nine months of the year totaled $957 million, the company said in an Oct. 19 statement.

J&J and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen denied any concealment of information or that Schedin’s injury was linked to Levaquin use.

“There is no proof that Levaquin caused Mr. Schedin’s tendon rupture,” John Dames, J&J’s attorney, said in closing arguments Dec. 6.

Ortho-McNeil-Janssen denied Schedin’s claim that it acted with deliberate disregard for safety.

“The company acted in a way that was not deliberate disregard,” J&J attorney Tracy Van Steenburgh told the jury today in the punitive phase of the trial. “This case is about whether this company provided enough information.”

Ortho-McNeil-Janssen didn’t send doctors letters about Levaquin’s risks before the 2008 label change, Watts said today.

“If they had made that choice, it would have helped educate doctors,” driving down the rate of tendon problems, he said.

Prescribed for Infection

Schedin was prescribed Levaquin and a steroid for an upper respiratory infection in 2005, according to his complaint.

“Prior to his Levaquin-induced bilateral Achilles tendon rupture, he was vigorous and active for his age,” his lawyers said in a Nov. 14 filing. “He has never fully recovered and is now severely restricted in his activities.”

His doctor would have prescribed another antibiotic had he known “about the risks associated with Levaquin, especially when taken together with steroids,” Schedin said in court papers.

The case is Schedin v. Johnson & Johnson, 08-cv-05743, combined for trial in In re Levaquin Products Liability Litigation, 08-md-01943, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (Minneapolis).

Securities Litigation Case Results

Russell Grigsby v. ProTrader Group Management LLC* In Grigsby, our client’s partners forced him out of the securities trading business he helped found by acquiring his stock at a price grossly deflated by the material nondisclosure of negotiations to sell the company to a much larger firm for $150 million dollars. The sale ultimately occurred and, following weeks of arbitration, a panel of arbitrators awarded Grigsby $43 million for his securities fraud and other claims. *Grigsby: Attorney fees: $12,274,249.79; Expenses: $977,466.04

Insurance Fraud Case Results

In the insurance fraud arena, we prosecuted James and Regina Stephenson’s claim against Lloyds for its bad faith refusal to cover the loss of our clients’ home, which was destroyed by fire. In the end, our clients received well more than double the full, substantial policy amount. Similarly, in Williams v. Texas Insurance Agency*, after an insurance agent failed to secure appropriate insurance coverage for our client, we brought suit and recovered $3.5 million. *Williams: Attorney Fees: $1,200,000; Expenses: $77,674.91

For more information about our case results, you can contact us.