After a 3-week trial, a Federal jury in Illinois made a surprising decision to rule in favor of both the plaintiff and the defendant in a case that ended on Monday, the 24th of July 2017. The plaintiff, Jesse Mitchell, sued the defendant, AbbVie, on the claim that they caused his 2012 heart attack by advertising their product, AndroGel, for uses that were not approved of by the FDA.
Mitchell claimed that the company advertised AndroGel specifically targeting men like him for the treatment of “low T” which is a condition of lowering testosterone levels that occur naturally as men age. However, the use of the product for that condition specifically was never approved by the FDA. He also claimed that the company made an apparent attempt to hide the risks associated with replacement testosterone therapy.
The jury decided that AbbVie was not responsible for Mitchell’s heart attack after the company argued that Mitchell was not in the best physical health and that this predisposed him to the risk of a heart attack prior to using their product.
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But, that wasn’t the end of jury’s decision, in a stunning move, the jury stated that they also agreed with Mitchell that AbbVie wrongly advertised their product for uses that were never approved of by the FDA. For this reason, they ordered AbbVie to pay $150 million in punitive damages even though they aren’t being required to pay compensatory damages to Mitchell
The legal team for Mitchell, which included Chris Tisi of Ashcraft & Gerel, Troy Rafferty of Levin Papantonio Thomas Mitchell Rafferty & Proctor, and David Buchanan of Seeger Weiss, hope the verdict is a harbinger of things to come. The remaining cases encompassed by the multidistrict litigation are still to be tried, however, they are hopeful that Mitchell’s case could speak to the growing sentiment that drug companies need to be held accountable for false or misleading advertising and some say this could mark the beginning of verdicts against AbbVie and the other companies producing these testosterone replacement therapy gel products.
AbbVie will likely appeal the $150 million order, but it is important to note: This case is the first of many in its multidistrict litigation to actually reach a verdict. There have been over 6,000 similar cases in Illinois filed against AbbVie as well as other companies that manufacture gel products for testosterone replacement therapy. Claims consist of heart attack cases as well as other injuries that were reportedly incurred due to the testosterone gel products.