As we ring in the new year, it is time once again to reflect on some of the most significant legal developments for drug and device companies this year. The list below is by no means exhaustive (who could forget the Rule 702 updates that took place this year, which will carry over into 2023?), but provides a brief recap and assessment of five of the most interesting and consequential developments affecting drug and device law in 2022.
Recent legislation will have a significant impact on the evaluation of personal injury and wrongful death cases across Illinois. For many years, Illinois plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death actions have been entitled to statutory postjudgment interest, currently at a rate of 9% per year. (735 ILCS 5/2-1303(a)). Prejudgment interest, however, has not been available under the Illinois judgment interest statute. That is about to change. The Illinois legislature recently passed Senate Bill 72, the Illinois Prejudgment Interest Act, which goes into effect on July 1, 2021, and imposes prejudgment interest on defendants at a rate of 6% per year.
United States prisoners file an inordinate number of often frivolous lawsuits. In federal district courts alone, prisoners filed more than 28,000 last year. With time on their hands, and influenced by plaintiff attorneys’ advertisements and/or sensational media coverage of multimillion-dollar personal injury verdicts, many prisoners pursue baseless product liability actions. Their goal: winning an outsized verdict or, at least, a quick, nuisance-value settlement. They have had little to lose. Yet, defendant pharmaceutical companies are forced to litigate these cases, faced with the attendant costs of often-complicated inmate discovery. Many judges and/or magistrates, perhaps influenced by civil rights concerns, sometimes bend the rules of Civil Procedure for pro se prison plaintiffs. The result: Expensive litigation of often meritless lawsuits with virtually no chance of collecting costs as a prevailing party.
As noted in two prior posts, one on May 15, 2020, and the other on May 29, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting explosion in the use of remote depositions present a number of novel issues for lawyers to consider, whether taking or defending depositions. Regardless of these “unprecedented times,” some things remain the same, including that it is improper for a witness to be coached about answers while the deposition is occurring.
On August 25, 2020, Judge Richard L. Young, S.D. Indiana, granted Cook Medical Inc.’s motion for sanctions against the plaintiff’s law firm in Burrage v. Cook Medical Inc. et al.
This case was one of many “no-injury” claims in the Cook IVC Filter MDL, meaning that the plaintiff did not claim any symptomatic injuries related to his IVC filter. It was selected as a bellwether case in August 2019 following a selection process that required substantial time and effort from the parties and the court. In June 2020, plaintiff’s counsel moved to voluntarily dismiss his claims with prejudice on the grounds that they have a “negative value” (meaning that the costs of litigating the case exceed the anticipated recovery), and Burrage never anticipated that the case would go to trial.
The Ninth Circuit recently rejected a plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees under the so-called catalyst theory where the changes the defendant made in an effort to effectively moot the case were different from the changes the plaintiff had demanded in the litigation. The decision illustrates that a creative fix to an alleged issue may deter a plaintiff’s counsel from pursuing the case without entitling them to a fee award under the catalyst theory.