Sientra Defeats J&J/Mentor Worldwide Lawsuit: A Victory For Free Competition, Employee Rights And Women's Health
Santa Barbara, Calif., (Sept. 4, 2013), – Sientra, Inc. a privately-held maker of medical devices including breast implants, successfully defended itself against allegations of strong-arm tactics, anti-competitive behavior and "corporate raiding" by global conglomerate Johnson & Johnson and its operating company, Mentor Worldwide, LLC (Case No. 1402207). After a nearly eight-week trial in the Superior Court of California, a Santa Barbara jury needed fewer than four hours to return a defense verdict in favor of Sientra. The presiding judge, Thomas P. Anderle, confirmed the jury verdict with a multi page opinion rejecting J&J/Mentor's theories and claims, and concurred "The jury got it right…"
Sientra successfully argued that this lawsuit, the 14th consecutive case brought by J&J/Mentor against either Sientra or its employees in the last 18 months, was designed to blunt competition in the breast implant market previously dominated by J&J/Mentor and a second company, Allergan, Inc. Those two companies operated as a duopoly for 20 years before Sientra entered the market in 2012.
"We are very pleased with the court's decision to reject this baseless lawsuit intended to kill legitimate fair competition by driving Sientra out of the breast implant market because we bring better product technology and solutions to plastic surgeons and patients in the U.S.," said Hani Zeini, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sientra. "It is now my sincere hope that J&J/Mentor will do what should have been done in the first place; namely, compete fairly with us in the marketplace. Think how much better the market and patients would be today if these needless legal costs were invested in improving patient care and outcomes instead of funding anti-competitive behavior by this giant conglomerate."
Following Sientra's receipt of FDA approval in 2012, J&J/Mentor employed an aggressive litigation strategy against the small startup company. The raft of litigation began on March 27, 2012, only weeks after Sientra hired 20 of Mentor's sales personnel including Mentor's former regional manager Jeffrey Lewis. J&J/Mentor unleashed 13 frivolous and baseless lawsuits against their former employees in 10 different states. These former employees successfully defeated J&J/Mentor's unsubstantiated claims.
"It is wrong that a large company such as J&J/Mentor tried to strangle competition through baseless legal tactics," continued Zeini. "J&J/Mentor supposedly lives by a mission statement promoting ethical conduct and fair play. Yet, there is nothing ethical or fair with what they did to us, our employees, and their families over the past 18 months with these lawsuits."
Sientra adhered to a "Clean Hands" policy that prohibited each new hire from taking, disclosing or using Mentor property; barred each from soliciting or speaking to any Mentor employee about job opportunities at Sientra; and required the new hires to return or delete everything known to be in their possession that belonged to Mentor.
The verdict cleared Sientra of intentionally interfering with Mentor's business operations, and cleared Mr. Lewis of misappropriating and converting Mentor's trade secrets, and breaching his fiduciary duties to J&J/Mentor.
Sientra's trial team included trial lawyers from the Santa Barbara-based Cappello & Nöel, LLP, and the New Jersey, Florida and Los Angeles offices of Proskauer Rose LLP.