May 8, 2008

Washington Court Denies Post-Trial Motions in Case Involving $40 Million Verdict Against California Medical Device Manufacturer

According to this report on HeraldNet, Judge Linda Krese of the Snohomish County Superior Court denied Edwards Lifescience Inc.'s motions for relief from a $40 million verdict. The case, which was widely publicized, involved the failure of a machine that was supposed to monitor blood flow and other conditions during a heart bypass surgery. The machine overheated and "cooked" the plaintiff's heart, requiring him to undergo a heart transplant.

The jury's $40 million award included $8 million in punitive damages. Edwards argued in its posttrial motions that punitive damages were unwarranted, but Judge Krese concluded that Edwards had acted with "reckless disregard for the safety of others" when it failed to warn doctors that the device could overheat under certain circumstances.

As we mentioned in our original blog post about this story, the large punitive damages award is s quite unusual in Washington, where state law generally does not allow punitive damages.