We are one of the leading firms in the country for products liability trials, with an unparalleled track record of success and a deep bench of lawyers with first- and second-chair trial experience. We have served as lead counsel in seven major bellwether products liability trials since 2016, and are currently playing a lead role in several other mass torts.
While our focus in all of these cases is on developing the themes and narrative that will win over juries, we have also played a critical role in other aspects of the litigation, from leading the briefing and legal strategy to taking and defending the key depositions that shine in the courtroom or helping deliver favorable settlements.
Here are some of the highlights of our experience:
Boudreaux v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Orr v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Judge Fallon, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana). Wilkinson Walsh, led by Beth Wilkinson, won the first two federal bellwether trials in New Orleans in a multi-district litigation involving the blood thinner Xarelto. The MDL was one of the largest in the United States, with over 18,000 cases pending. The plaintiffs in both cases alleged that Wilkinson Walsh’s client Bayer and codefendant Janssen Pharmaceuticals had failed to adequately instruct doctors on how to identify individuals at a high risk of bleeding on Xarelto. In both cases, the juries returned unanimous defense verdicts within two hours after closing arguments. Beth was named American Lawyer’s Litigator of the Week and a “Law360 Legal Lion” for her work leading the defense team in the first trial.
Hartman v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Judge Erdos, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas); Russell v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Judge Erdos, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas); Cooney v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Judge Sarmina, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas). Wilkinson Walsh then went on to win all three of the bellwether trials in the companion state court mass tort litigation in Philadelphia.
In the first case, Hartman, Beth Wilkinson and Alex Walsh convinced the trial court to enter judgment for Bayer and Janssen notwithstanding a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff. Ruling from the bench, Judge Erdos concluded that the plaintiff had failed to introduce sufficient evidence of causation to prevail in the case, and that he would have otherwise granted a new trial based on plaintiffs’ highly inflammatory and prejudicial commentary during closing argument.
Months later, Brian Stekloff led the Wilkinson Walsh team to victory in the Russell case, which was the first case involving failure to warn claims based on the alleged increased risk of taking Xarelto along with antiplatelet medications.
The most recent trial victory came in September 2018, when a jury in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas deliberated for less than three hours, after a trial that lasted over three weeks. Founding Partner Alex Walsh was named American Lawyer’s Litigator of the Week for her role as lead trial lawyer in the case. The team, including Alexandra Walsh, Tamarra Matthews Johnson and Rakesh Kilaru, was named as one of Law360’s “Legal Lions” for the trial victory.
Following that victory, the parties entered into a global settlement for the thousands of pending cases, without Plaintiffs having won a single case.
Our engagement to try a wide array of cases over a short time period reflects the deep bench of trial lawyers we have already developed and our commitment to continue to develop that depth. We have already had five different lawyers take standup roles in front of the jury at products liability trials: Beth Wilkinson, Alex Walsh, Brian Stekloff, Tamarra Matthews Johnson, and Rakesh Kilaru. And several other of our lawyers have appeared before the judge to argue all manner of motions—from Daubert and Frye motions to motions in limine. Based on this model, and early successes, we have been retained to try several more products liability cases over the next year.