The United States Supreme Court has two basic types of jurisdiction: original and appellate. “Original jurisdiction” refers to cases over which the Court may hold a trial and render a judgment based upon the facts and the law. By contrast, “appellate jurisdiction” is the power of a court to review and, if warranted, revise decisions made by lower courts.
In an average one-year term, the United States Supreme Court receives around 10,000 petitions for review. However, in most cases, the Court has discretion as to whether to accept a case for appellate review, and an average of around 75 or 80 writs of certiorari granting review are handed down annually. Many of the cases for which certiorari is granted arise from the federal court system, but there are also some that have their origin in one of the state courts.
Recently, the defendant in a case that originated in the Massachusetts state courts sought review from the nation’s high court. Aggrieved by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision to affirm a trial court’s entry of judgment on a multi-million dollar verdict in a product liability lawsuit against it, a multinational pharmaceutical manufacturer sought a writ of certiorari of the state court’s April 2015 decision in Reckis v. Johnson & Johnson.
The State Court Case
At the state court level, the defendant had argued that the trial court erred in entering judgment against it because the plaintiffs (who claimed their daughter developed a life-threatening skin disorder after taking Children’s Motrin in 2003) had failed to prove causation, because their failure to warn claim was preempted by federal law, and because the jury’s award was excessive. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected all of these arguments and affirmed the trial court’s order.
The Defendant’s Basis for Certiorari
Johnson & Johnson argued that the Massachusetts state courts’ opinions had been contrary to a prior decision of the United States Supreme Court (Wyeth v. Levine (2009)), which it urged did not adequately define the “clear evidence” standard, allowing lower courts to hold defendants subject to inconsistent and unreasonable verdicts.
Earlier this month, the Court officially denied the Johnson & Johnson request for review, thus ending the case once and for all. Interestingly, the original verdict stood at $63 million, but Johnson & Johnson is now liable for approximately $140 million due to the accumulation of interest.
According to court documents and testimony at the trial, the illness caused by the child’s exposure to Motrin left her blind and caused her to lose approximately 90% of her skin. It also reduced her lung capacity by 80%.
To Speak to an Experienced Massachusetts Injury Attorney
If you have been hurt by a dangerous product or an act of negligence, you need advice from a dependable and reliable source. The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can help you make an informed decision as to whether to go forward with litigation against the responsible party. To schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable Massachusetts products liability attorney, call us at (888) 262-6664 and ask for a free and confidential case evaluation. We have offices in both Hyannis and Plymouth.
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