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On December 1, 2016, after 12 weeks of trial including 32 witnesses and 1,346 total admitted exhibits, a Texas federal jury awarded $40 million in compensatory damages and more than $1 billion in punitive damages to six plaintiffs who alleged that DePuy Orthopaedics Inc.’s Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implants were defectively designed and that the company failed to warn doctors and consumers about complications possible from the device, which included pain and subsequent revision surgeries.
DePuy Orthopaedics is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. The award comes in what was the third set of bellwether trials in the DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. Pinnacle hip implant multidistrict products liability litigation before U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas. The DePuy Pinnacle multidistrict litigation (MDL) is number 2244. DePuy Orthopaedics plans to appeal the decision arguing that it properly tested Pinnacle hip implant and the device’s safety was backed by clinical data.
The victory in this bellwether trial is significant and may prompt settlement of over 8,600 lawsuits consolidated in the MDL. Johnson & Johnson prevailed in the first bellwether trial in 2014 wherein a Montana woman claimed that the product gave her metal poisoning. In the second bellwether trial that concluded in March 2016, the jury awarded over $500 million to five plaintiffs. The court ordered that $140 million would be applied to collective compensatory damages with $360 million being awarded in punitive damages. Johnson & Johnson appealed. As this third bellwether trial was governed by California law, it was not subject to the same punitive damages cap seen in the second bellwether trial governed by Texas law. A fourth bellwether trial, which will involve 10 patients, is scheduled for September 2017.
Following the jury’s verdict in the latest bellwether trial, the lead attorney in the MDL stated , “Once again, a jury has listened to the testimony of both sides, and returned a verdict affirming what we’ve known all along. A responsible company would settle these cases and take care of their injured consumers. Rather than forcing them through expensive and vexatious litigation just to delay justice. This jury spoke loud and clear, and I hope J & J will finally listen.”
Mindy Tinsley, U.S. spokeswoman for DePuy, countered, “We have no greater responsibility than to the patients who use our products, and our goal is to create medical innovations that help people live more active and comfortable lives. DePuy acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing of ULTAMET Metal-on-Metal, and the product is backed by a strong track record of clinical data showing reduced pain and restored mobility for patients suffering from chronic hip pain.”
Companies that manufacture metal-on-metal hip implants have been sued frequently over the last five years. Patients claim that they suffered tissue death, bone erosion and other injuries stemming from toxic metal poisoning caused by high levels of chromium and cobalt in the bloodstream. This is primarily due to metal debris that comes loose from the hip implant through normal wear and tear that is then absorbed by the surrounding tissue and migrates to other parts of the body. Many patients who developed problems with their metal-on-metal hip replacement devices required revision surgery to replace their hip implants.
DePuy Orthopaedics recalled its ASR XL in 2010 after reports of that metal-on-metal device failing too early. DePuy paid $2.5 billion to settle approximately 7,000 lawsuits alleging that the medical device was defectively designed.
If you or a family member have a hip implant, or have had revision surgery to remove and replace a hip implant, you and/or your family member may be entitled to money damages.