Jury Awards Six Billion Dollars in Punitive Damages Against Japan’s Largest Drugmaker

In one of the largest punitive damage awards in history – greater even than that awarded against Exxon Mobile Corp. for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill – a Louisiana Federal Court jury awarded $6 billion in punitive damages against Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., and $3 billion against Eli Lilly and Co., Takeda’s Indiana-based co-defendant. (In re: Actos Products Liability Litigation, Case No. 6:11-md-2299 (W.D. Louisiana))

After deliberating for less than two hours, the jury found that Takeda, Japan’s largest pharmaceutical company, had concealed cancer risks associated with its diabetes medication, Actos, and in addition to its punitive damages award, awarded the plaintiffs $1.475 million dollars in compensatory damages.

The Actos case consists of approximately 2,700 lawsuits that were consolidated into one multi-district litigation matter. The plaintiffs alleged that, prior to the drug’s release in 1999, executives at Takeda knew that Actos caused increased bladder cancer in laboratory animals, but withheld this information from regulators. When directed by the FDA to perform a post-marketing study on the safety and effectiveness of the drug, Takeda delayed the tests until 2003 and then designed them as a ten year trial. However, other interim studies showed a marked increase in bladder cancer among patients who took Actos. In 2011, Germany and France suspended use of the drug, and in the United States, the FDA issued a safety alert warning patients that taking the drug for more than a year could increase the risk of bladder cancer. Canada issued a similar warning in 2012. Nevertheless, Actos’ warning label still reads, “There are too few events of bladder cancer to establish causality.”

Following the jury’s verdict, Takeda’s general counsel stated that, “Takeda respectfully disagrees with the verdict and we intend to vigorously challenge this outcome through all available legal means, including possible post-trial motions and an appeal.” He went on to say that, “We also believe we demonstrated that Takeda acted responsibility with regard to Actos.”

While it is likely that the punitive damages award against Takeda will eventually be reduced , the message to drug manufacturers is clear. Pharmaceutical companies, as well as other product manufacturers, have a duty to ensure the safety of their products, and to warn of potential harms associated with them. When manufacturers fail to comply with their obligations to the general public, they may be found liable not only for compensatory damages, but for punitive damages as well.

Product liability cases present many challenges and should only be handled by attorneys who have experience in investigating, litigating, and obtaining justice for those harmed by negligent product manufacturers and distributors. The attorneys at the Boesch Law Group have successfully litigated hundreds of product liability cases, including against some of the largest product manufacturers in the world. For a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles-based products liability attorneys, call us today at (310) 578-7880.

 

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