The Zometa Cases

The core business model for products-liability plaintiffs’ lawyers depends increasingly on first amassing an inventory of claimants via consolidated state and federal proceedings, and then threatening big verdicts in early trials involving cherry-picked claims in favorable jurisdictions, thus driving up both settlement values and the pressure on the company to resolve the entire claims inventory.  Hollingsworth LLP has helped Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation to derail attempts by the plaintiffs’ bar to execute that strategy in the Aredia and Zometa litigation, first by defeating efforts to certify a behemoth medical monitoring class action, and then by taking early personal injury cases to trial.  We continue to work to ensure that this litigation – which involves our client’s life-enhancing cancer drugs – is resolved on the merits and real science, not on pressure brought to bear by a coordinated plaintiffs’ bar.

Hollingsworth LLP obtained key defense verdicts in both bellwether trials in the consolidated litigation in New Jersey state court in May 2013 (see Meng v. Novartis Pharm. Corp.) – a case plaintiff’s counsel selected for trial.  Plaintiff alleged that she developed osteonecrosis of the jaw (“ONJ”) – characterized by exposed bone in the mouth with associated adverse effects – as a result of receiving Zometa to prevent skeletal-related events (such as fractures and spinal cord compression), when her breast cancer metastasized to her bones.  After deliberating for fewer than six hours, the jury returned a 7-to-1 verdict in favor of Novartis, rejecting plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim by answering “No” to the first question posed:  “Did Novartis fail to provide an adequate warning to Ms. Meng’s prescribing physician concerning the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw (‘ONJ’) from Zometa that Novartis either knew or in light of the reasonably available knowledge should have known prior to Ms. Meng discontinuing use of the drug?”  Hollingsworth LLP won plaintiff’s #1 pick, Bessemer v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., in 2010, securing a defense verdict following about two hours of jury deliberations. Hollingsworth LLP has also had an unbroken chain of success in New Jersey on behalf of Novartis in cases selected for trial work-up as potential bellwethers with voluntary dismissals or summary judgment victories in four additional cases.

2014 also blazed hot.  Hollingsworth LLP prevailed in both 2014 federal trials conducted after remand from the federal MDL established to handle Aredia and Zometa claims.  After deliberating for less than an hour, a federal jury in Tampa, Florida, returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation in an eleven-day trial.  See Dopson-Troutt v. Novartis Pharm. Corp.  Following a full day’s deliberations, a federal jury in Raleigh, North Carolina, returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation after a seven-day trial involving Aredia and Zometa.  See Earp v. Novartis Pharm. Corp.  Plaintiff Jimmy Earp alleged that he developed ONJ as a result of receiving Aredia® and Zometa® as part of his treatment for multiple myeloma.  Hollingsworth LLP also has won dismissal or summary judgment in over 250 other Aredia/Zometa cases, won complete defense verdicts in multiple other trials, and won as well twenty-four appellate judgments.

Hollingsworth LLP has advanced winning arguments on punitive damages (including groundbreaking preemption rulings), proximate causation, limitations (including claims of class action tolling), and forum non conviens in this litigation.  In these cases, Hollingsworth LLP has also effectively used Daubert, which we believe is often the lynchpin of merits-based resolution in serial litigation.  The Firm has crafted effective Daubert strategies many times, including in its defense of earlier litigation involving the drug Parlodel, resulting in a line of federal appellate cases that have been referred to as the “Parlodel Trilogy.”  In the Aredia and Zometa cases, courts have excluded or significantly limited the testimony of numerous plaintiffs’ experts and have granted summary judgment in cases where plaintiffs have failed to designate qualified experts to address critical elements of their causes of action.  In Hogan v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., for example, Hollingsworth LLP successfully moved the court to exclude the entire testimony of plaintiff’s ubiquitous FDA expert, Dr. Suzanne Parisian.

Hollingsworth LLP represents some of the world’s largest drug (innovator and generic) and device manufacturers in individual cases and in serial litigation.