DePuy Hip Verdict $498 Million

Johnson & Johnson DePuy was hit with a DePuy Hip Verdict of $498 Million Thursday, March 16, 2016, in Dallas, Texas, in the second bellwether trial in the multidistrict litigation over Pinnacle hip prosthesis  made by DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Plaintiffs had presented the consolidated claims of five patients who testified that the Pinnacle hip replacement devices were defective and gave them problems.

Law 360 announced that after a two-month trial and several days of deliberations, a Dallas jury found in favor of all five plaintiffs, delivering a verdict that included $360 million in punitive damages.

Failure to Warn, Design Defect Claims

The jury found for the plaintiffs on their failure-to-warn and design defect claims, holding both J&J and DePuy liable. About $240 million of the punitive damages were assessed directly against J&J, while DePuy was assessed the other $120 million. The $140 million in compensatory damages will be divided among the plaintiffs based on the extent of their individual injuries.

Pinnacle Acetabular Cup system

The defendants will appeal the verdict (of course), according to DePuy spokes model Mindy Tinsley. The products in play include the Pinnacle Acetabular Cup System, a metal hip implant product with a cobalt-chromium liner that the company brands the “Ultamet” liner.

DePuy Responds

Ms. Tinsley said in a statement at odds with the verdict: “DePuy acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing of ULTAMET Metal-on-Metal, and the product is backed by a strong record of safety and effectiveness in reducing pain and restoring mobility for patients suffering from chronic hip pain.”

Five Plaintiffs

The trial had involved the consolidated claims of plaintiffs Margaret Aoki, Jay Christopher, Donald Greer, Richard Klusmann and Robert Peterson. All underwent hip arthroplasty, which involves a hip joint being replaced with a prosthetic. In the cases of the five, the prosthesis were DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal devices, which all the plaintiffs testified cause serious health problems that included inflammation of surrounding tissues, bone erosion and metallosis, a toxic condition due to the device’s components grinding against each other and shedding metal debris into the bloodstream.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, presiding over the trial and the MDL, had ruled on Jan. 8, 2016 that the five cases had enough issues in common that they should be consolidated for a single trial. According to Judge Kinkeade’s ruling, all five plaintiffs underwent similar implantation surgeries, their doctors had received similar warnings, and the patients all alleged similar injuries.

Margaret Aoki, who had filed her suit in March 2013, was implanted with a DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal device in 2010. Ms. Aoki contended that after DePuy’s other hip implant product, the DePuy ASR Hip System, was recalled in 2010, J&J doubled down on marketing the metal-on-metal device to replace the company’s lost sales.

Ms. Aoki claimed that the ASR recall spurred J&J into “damage control” mode, in which it assured surgeons the metal-on-metal device was safe but knew it posed the risk of complications that included metallosis. She pointed out that more than 1,300 adverse event complaints had been made to the FDA about the devices, among the roughly 150,000 such devices sold . She said that J&J knew that patients implanted with those devices wound up with unsafe levels of cobalt and chromium in their bloodstream.

First Trial went for J&J in Ultamet Case

The first bellwether trial in the MDL ended in a verdict for J&J in October 2014, when a federal jury unanimously cleared DePuy Orthopedics of similar accusations.

After an eight-week trial, that jury had rejected plaintiff Kathy Herlihy-Paoli’s claims of negligence, defective design, failure to warn and violations of the Montana Consumer Protection Act. The product in that trial was the Ultamet metal-on-metal articulation.

The DePuy Hip MDL was consolidated in May 2011, when the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized three actions and identified 54 potential “tag-along actions,” according to Law 360. According to court documents, the MDL now holds more than 8,000 cases, all involving Pinnacle devices that contain sockets with metal, ceramic or polyethylene lining.

DePuy Hip Verdict: $498 Million

The five cases that were consolidated for trial are Aoki v. Johnson & Johnson Services et al., case number 3:13-cv-01071; Christopher et al v. Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. et al., case number 3:14-cv-01994; Greer v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. et al., case number 3:12-cv-1672; Klusmann et al v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. et al., case number 3:11-cv-02800; and Peterson et al v. Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. et al, case number 3:11-cv-01941, all in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

The MDL is In re: DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:11-md-02244, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

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