Willkie Obtains Patent Victory for Hospira

Willkie client Hospira, Inc. recently scored an important win in a patent infringement case filed against it by AbbVie Inc. On October 24, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware ruled that Hospira’s generic paricalcitol product does not infringe AbbVie’s U.S. Patent No. 6,136,799.  The decision followed a bench trial conducted in November 2013.  Other generic companies had taken a different approach than Hospira, and settled their cases before trial. Hospira’s courtroom victory paved the way for it to provide U.S. dialysis patients with its high-quality, lower-cost alternative to AbbVie’s Zemplar injection product.  As of November 1, Hospira was the only supplier of a generic paricalcitol injection product in the market.

Hospira is the world leader in generic injectable pharmaceuticals and obtained U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for its paricalcitol product on October 21, 2014. Hospira's paricalcitol product is indicated for the prevention and treatment of secondary hyperparathyroidism associated with chronic kidney disease Stage 5.

Hospira’s case was tried by partner Thomas Meloro, of counsel Michael Johnson, and associate Heather Schneider.  The litigation team also included partner Jeffrey Korn, and associates Sara O’Brien and Aparnaa Saini. 

Victory for Marsh in Precedent-Setting Trial Involving “Special Relationship”

On October 30 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, a jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Willkie client insurance broker Marsh USA Inc. in the first case to go to trial involving an emerging area of potential broker liability called a "special relationship." While there was no claim that Marsh had breached either the terms of its contract or the standard duties owed by brokers, the plaintiffs, the Tiara Condominium Association,  asserted that Marsh should be required to pay roughly $35 million because it had entered into a special relationship with Tiara that obligated Marsh to advise Tiara on the amount of windstorm insurance to buy – a duty typically left to a professional appraiser.

The concept of imposing heightened duties on insurance brokers, often referred to as a special relationship, has been gaining some acceptance in courts across the country.  For example, the New York Court of Appeals recently has recognized that a broker, either expressly or by its conduct, can take on heightened duties to its client through a special relationship. While courts have recognized the concept, it is believed that the claim against Marsh was the first to be tested through trial.

During the trial, Willkie established that for a special relationship to exist, the insurance broker had to agree to perform more than those services regularly performed by commercial insurance brokers in a standard relationship.  Further, Willkie persuaded the court and the jury that the key to finding a special relationship is the transfer of decision making authority; for a special relationship to exist, the insurance broker must be in the “driver's seat” with respect to selecting the types and amounts of insurance the insured will purchase.

After a two-week trial, the nine-person jury returned a unanimous verdict, agreeing that Marsh had not entered into a special relationship with Tiara.  It is expected that the case will set a key precedent for insurance brokers as the "special relationship" doctrine continues to develop across the country. The matter was handled by partners Mitchell Auslander and Christopher St. Jeanos, assisted by special counsel Ian Hochman, associates Frank Scaduto, Jim Fitzmaurice, Jocelyn Sher, and law clerk Le-Anh Bui.

Matthew Feldman and Thomas Henry Named Law360 MVPs

Partners Matthew Feldman and Thomas Henry were named MVPs by Law360. Mr. Feldman was one of only eight attorneys nationwide to be recognized in the area of Bankruptcy and Mr. Henry was one of only seven in the area of Real Estate. In 2012, Mr. Henry was named a Law360 “Rising Star” in Real Estate.

As part of the recognition, Mr. Feldman and Mr. Henry will be profiled in upcoming issues of Law360.  MVPs  are “elite law firm partners” recognized for their “exemplary work” on  “mammoth deals and first-of-their-kind global matters.”  This year Law360 editors reviewed more than 800 submissions and selected  171 attorneys from 78 firms, spanning 29 practice areas.