A West Virginia jury has ordered Takeda Pharmaceuticals to pay $155,000 to a retired bakery worker, finding that the company destroyed evidence necessary for the plaintiff to establish that the side effects of Actos caused bladder cancer.
The case is the latest in a series of plaintiffs’ verdicts in Actos lawsuits filed over the drug maker’s failure to warn consumers and the medical community about the risk of bladder cancer, linked to the popular diabetes drug.
The complaint filed by Richard Myers also alleged that the pharmaceutical company intentionally destroyed documents about the link between Actos and bladder cancer.
Following more than four weeks of trial and only three hours of deliberations, the jury awarded Myers compensatory damages of $155,000. This was the eighth Actos case to go before a jury and the fifth victory for plaintiffs.
In addition to various complaints pending in state courts throughout the country, Takeda Pharmaceuticals faces more than 3,500 Actos lawsuits that are consolidated in the federal court system before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in the Western District of Louisiana, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
All of the cases raise similar allegations that the drug makers placed their desire for profits before the safety of consumers by withholding important information about the link between use of the diabetes drug Actos and bladder cancer. Many of the complaints also allege that Takeda has acted in bad faith, failing to preserve documents relevant to the case, even though they were aware of pending litigation.
Concerns about a potential link between Actos and bladder cancer emerged in 2010, leading to thousands of product liability lawsuits being filed nationwide against the drug makers by former users.
In May 2013, a California jury awarded $6.5 million in damages over Actos bladder cancer in a case brought by Jack Cooper, who was given an expedited trial date due to his grave health. However, following post-trial motions, that verdict was reversed after the state court judge excluded the plaintiffs’ expert witness testimony.
A second trial was held in Maryland state court in September 2013, which resulted in a jury finding that Takeda failed to adequately warn about the risk of bladder cancer from Actos and awarding $1.77 million in damages. However, the case resulted in a defense verdict for the drug maker under a unique Maryland law, known as contributory negligence, as the jury also found that the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care for his own health, which nullified the negligence of the drug maker.
Earlier this year a jury handed down a $9 billion punitive damages verdict in the first bellwether test trial to take place in federal court. Judge Doherty later reduced the punitive damages to $37 million, but lamented in her opinion that the Supreme Court needs to update rules on what is considered excessive in order to effectively deter large corporations the type of bad behavior exhibited by Takeda.
Judge Doherty has also sanctioned Takeda for lost evidence and concluded earlier this summer that it was likely that the company had intentionally destroyed evidence. She has ordered that federal juries be informed of the company’s actions when they consider their cases.
Most recently, a Pennsylvania state court jury awarded $2 million in damages to a woman diagnosed with bladder cancer following use of Actos.
While the outcomes of these early “bellwether” trials are not binding in other cases, they may ultimately influence an eventual Actos settlement agreement reached by Takeda and Eli Lilly to avoid facing verdicts from thousands of individual juries nationwide.