A federal jury in Texas has ordered Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics to pay more than $1 billion to a group of patients who said they were injured by Pinnacle hip implants.
Johnson & Johnson designed the Pinnacle hips defectively and knew about adverse risks like tissue death and bone erosion but failed to warn its patients and doctors, the jury concluded on Dec. 1. Each of the six patients in the lawsuit had to undergo a second surgery to replace the devices and repair tissue damage after experiencing serious medical complications.
The plaintiffs’ lead attorney Mark Lanier said that the $1.041 billion verdict included $32 million in compensatory damages with the rest being punitive damages. Lanier told Reuters that Johnson & Johnson rejected a $1.8 million settlement offer before the trial.
“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,” said Lanier in a statement. “This jury spoke loud and clear, and I hope J&J will finally listen.”
Johnson & Johnson criticized the judge’s handling of the case and immediately made plans to challenge the verdict. After the ruling, the company and its subsidiary continued to support the hip implant devices.
“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,” said DePuy spokesperson Mindy Tinsley in a statement. “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.”
J&J Lawsuit Just the Tip of the Iceberg
Johnson & Johnson still faces nearly 9,000 additional lawsuits related to the faulty Pinnacle hip implants pending before U.S. District Judges James Edgar Kinkeade in the Northern District of Texas. Plaintiffs saw the Dec. 1 verdict as an indication that the companies should begin working on a settlement.
“The jury is telling J&J that they better settle these cases soon,” plaintiff lawyer Mark Lanier told Bloomberg. “All they are doing by trying more of these cases is driving up their costs and driving the company’s reputation into the mud.”
This verdict marks the third test or bellwether case to help gauge the value of the remaining claims. In the first test case in 2014, Johnson & Johnson and DePuy were cleared of liability after a jury rejected a Montana woman’s claim that the device gave her metal poisoning.
In the second test case, a different Dallas jury awarded $502 million in March 2016 to five plaintiffs making similar complaints about how Pinnacle devices caused serious complications, including bone erosion and revision surgery. Judge Kinkeade cut that verdict to about $150 based on the Texas state law limiting punitive damage.
Despite the two losses, Johnson & Johnson is spearheading efforts to appeal the cases and plans on fighting future claims. A fourth bellwether trial is set for September 2017.
Pinnacle Not First Controversial Implant for J&J
In January 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent out a safety communication that metal-on-metal implants like the Pinnacle implant could cause a variety of issues, including metal entering the bloodstream, device failure, and the need for revision surgery. The FDA also required manufacturers to perform post-market clinical trials at the time.
Later that year, Johnson & Johnson pulled the DePuy Pinnacle hip implants from distribution but never issued a recall despite reports of adverse reactions.
This isn’t the first time the companies had trouble with hip implants. In 2010, the DePuy ASR hip devices were recalled after studies showed high rates of failure. Nearly 10,000 lawsuits were filed against the companies for making a defective product and failing to warn patients of risks.
In 2013, Johnson & Johnson agreed to a $2.5 billion settlement for more than 7,000 lawsuits involving the all-metal hip.