A defective hip implant verdict of $1 billion came last week. On Dec. 2, 2016 a Texas federal jury found Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. unit liable for more than $1.04 billion in a six-plaintiff trial. The plaintiffs had all claimed injury from DePuy metal-on-metal artificial hips, which were part of the company’s Pinnacle line. In a previous bellwether trial over the same product, a jury awarded a $150 million verdict.
Metal on Metal Product Problems
The multi district litigation court in the DePuy hip litigation has been assembled over allegations that friction between the device’s metal socket and metal ball head rubs away billions of microscopic particles. Those particles pollute the bloodstream and surround tissue with “wear debris.”
The jury deliberated less than a day after a two-month trial. The jury found J&J and DePuy had negligently designed the hip implant, failed to warn surgeons about dangerous conditions related to it, and concealed the implant’s risks.
The verdict included $4 – $6 million per person in damages for injuries, pain and suffering; $1 million to each of four spouses for loss of consortium; $504 plus million against both defendants in punitive damages. The punitive damages came after the jury found the companies had acted with malice or fraud.
Negligent Design, Failure to Warn
Both DePuy and J&J were found liable for negligent design defect, negligent failure to warn, strict liability failure to warn, failure to recall, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment. The jury found J&J did not conspire with DePuy on the design defect claim, but did find J&J liable for conspiracy on the other six claims. J&J was also found liable for aiding and abetting DePuy, in seven different causes of action.
The jury awarded $4 million plus medical costs to each of four people who had a single hip replaced, and $6 million plus medical costs to each of two plaintiffs who had both hips replaced. Each of the plaintiffs was awarded $84 million in punitive damages against J&J and DePuy.
$84 Million Headache Money for Illegal Kickbacks
In closing arguments the plaintiffs’ lawyer reminded jurors of J&J testimony related to an $84 million settlement J&J made to end an investigation into allegations it paid doctors kickbacks. A witness for Johnson had said J&J wasn’t admitting wrongdoing, but had paid the money to make a headache go away.
A headache? $84 million is aspirin money to them,” the attorney said during closing arguments. He urged the jury to impose a penalty stiff enough to make Johnson & Johnson change its future behavior with medical devices.
Plaintiffs are from California; therefore, they are not subject to the same punitive damages cap that slashed by more than two-thirds the $502 million verdict from the second bellwether trial, which involved Texas plaintiffs.
J&J did win the first metal-on-metal hip trial, which involved a Montana plaintiff.
DePuy Responds to Verdict
DePuy said it would challenge the verdict on appeal. The company claimed it has strong grounds for appeal.
The attorney on the losing side complained that the, “[billion-dollar] verdict provides no guidance on the merits of the overall Pinnacle litigation because the court’s rulings precluded a fair presentation to the jury.” (Now) the appellate court will need to review errors repeated in two trials, and we will continue to urge that no further trials be conducted until we receive appellate court guidance.”
Defective Hip Implant Verdict $1 Billion
The cases involved six plaintiffs from California who had each undergone “revision surgeries” after being fitted with metal-on-metal artificial hip systems of DePuy’s Pinnacle Ultamet variety.