Bellwether Trial Brought Against Johnson & Johnson
A jury just found in favor of five individuals who allege that the DePuy Orthopaedics Pinnacle metal hip device failed and led to significant damage. The case was the second bellwether trial brought against Johnson & Johnson and ended with a massive $500 million award that is comprised of approximately $130 million in compensatory damages and $360 in punitive damages.
The five individuals involved alleged their DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant devices caused serious health problems that include bone erosion, inflammation of the tissue surrounding the implant, and metallosis (metal poisoning) caused by the device’s metal components rubbing and shedding metal shards. The five cases were consolidated from a larger multidistrict litigation (MDL) for this bellwether and were heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The MDL is also in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas; U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade presides over the bellwether and MDL.
Other adverse reactions allegedly associated with metal hip devices include, but are not limited to, increased blood metal ion levels and metal poisoning; dislocations; pain; fracture; difficulty ambulating, rising, standing, and balancing; noise emanating from the joint; and pseudotumors. According to Law 360, Judge Kinkeade ruled on January 8, 2016 that the five cases had significant common issues that should be consolidated for this trial, that all five plaintiffs underwent similar Pinnacle implant surgeries, that “their doctors received similar warnings;” and that “the patients all alleged similar injuries, according to his ruling.” The five plaintiffs allege DePuy Orthopaedics, a unit at Johnson & Johnson, neglected to warn that the Pinnacle device could cause problems such as pain, implant loosening, tissue damage, and metal poisoning.
As its name suggests, the DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip device consists of all-metal surfaces. When the metal-on-metal devices were first released to the market, they were touted as being more durable, longer lasting, and better suited for younger, more active patients. In recent years, however, the safety of these metal-on-metal hip implants has been called into question and there are concerns regarding the metal parts shedding metal debris, even during normal activities, such as walking.
Court documents cited a number of tactics on the part of DePuy Orthopaedics, including calling for a number of bifurcations, which are requests to divide the trial in two parts in order to render a judgment on a set of legal issues without looking at all aspects. DePuy also sought over 10 requests for mistrial. All requests were denied. The plaintiffs’ legal team was also able to show that the DePuy legal team called forth a paid expert who earned over $900,000 by consulting for the defendants. After a two-month trial, deliberations took several days.
Meanwhile, J&J previously faced litigation over its metal-on-metal ASR hip device, which was ultimately recalled in August 2010 over premature and mounting failure rates.