North Carolina federal jury returns complete defense verdict in favor of Novartis in Aredia®/Zometa® trial.



E.D.N.C. -- United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina

Complex Litigation

Following a full day’s deliberations, a federal jury in Raleigh, North Carolina, today returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation after a seven-day trial involving Aredia® and Zometa®, medicines used to prevent the devastating consequences of bone damage in multiple myeloma patients and cancer patients suffering from metastases to bone.  Earp v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, No. 5:11-cv-680-D (E.D.N.C. May 14, 2014).  Plaintiff Jimmy Earp alleged that he developed osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) as a result of receiving Aredia® and Zometa® as part of his treatment for multiple myeloma.

Novartis successfully argued that Mr. Earp’s oncologist would have prescribed the medicines to him regardless of the ONJ risk.  Recognizing the extraordinary value the medicines confer, the jury rejected plaintiff’s North Carolina-based failure-to-warn claim – even after finding for plaintiff on medical causation and warning adequacy – by answering “No” to the question “Did Mr. Earp prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Novartis’s unreasonable failure to provide an adequate warning or instruction concerning the use of Aredia and Zometa was a proximate cause of Mr. Earp’s osteonecrosis of the jaw?” 

Earlier, in an oral order on May 9, 2014, Chief Judge James C. Dever III granted judgment as a matter of law for Novartis on plaintiff’s punitive damages claim.  Plaintiff had claimed that he was entitled to punitive damages under North Carolina’s “willful and wanton” standard.  However, Judge Dever ruled that plaintiff had not “presented sufficient evidence to allow a rational jury to find willful or wanton conduct on the part of Novartis’ officers, directors or managers by clear and convincing evidence.”  Judge Dever also ruled that “no rational jury could say, without hesitancy, that Novartis’ officers, directors or managers participated in or condoned the requisite willful or wanton conduct and that they knew or should have known that such conduct was reasonably likely to result in injury.”  On May 12, 2014, in an oral order, Judge Dever also granted judgment as a matter of law for Novartis on plaintiff’s implied warranty claim.

Novartis now has hundreds of resolutions favorable to the Company related to plaintiffs' claims regarding ONJ after treatment with Zometa® and/or Aredia®, which include more than 300 dismissals, summary judgments and trial wins in the Company's favor – most recently, before today, the jury's complete defense verdict just last month in Dopson-Troutt (Tampa, M.D.Fla.), reached in less than an hour of deliberations.  The Company remains committed to defending the litigation on the merits.

Novartis is represented in this matter by Firm partner William J. Cople III.