Texas jurors deliberated for less than a day before returning a verdict finding Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. unit liable for injuries related to the Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant. The jury awarded the six Plaintiffs in the bellwether trial $1.04 billion, which includes between $4 million and $6 million per plaintiff in damages for physical injuries and pain and suffering, and $1 million each to four spouses for loss of consortium. The verdict also includes more than $504 million in punitive damages against both DePuy and Johnson & Johnson.
Punitive damages are intended to punish a company for misconduct by hitting them where it hurts – in the pocketbook. The message is to prioritize patient safety before profits.
The lawsuit alleged the metal-on-metal hip design caused trillions of microscopic metal particles to shed with every step, which Plaintiffs say led to bone erosion, tissue damage, infection, inflammation and blood poisoning known as metallosis. The cobalt-chromium alloy socket-and-ball-head hip implant system has been under scrutiny since patients who had received them noticed that their new hip was failing at an alarming rate – some as little as five years. Artificial hips made from other materials can last up to 20 years or more.
Jurors found DePuy and Johnson & Johnson each liable for negligent design defect, negligent failure to warn, strict liability failure to warn, failure to recall, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment. Law 360 reports, “J&J was also found liable for aiding and abetting DePuy in each of the seven causes of action. 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.”
This was the third bellwether trial in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving the Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant. The cases are consolidated under Judge Ed Kinkeade in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
J&J won the first bellwether trial, which involved one plaintiff from Montana. A group of five Plaintiffs won the second bellwether trial, with a jury awarding a whopping $502 million verdict. However, because those Plaintiffs were from Texas, that verdict was reduced by almost two-thirds to $150 million because of a cap on punitive damages under Texas law. The six Plaintiffs in this latest trial are from California, so the verdict is not subject to a punitive damages cap.
Beasley Allen lawyer Navan Ward is a member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee (PSC) for the Pinnacle MDL and was heavily involved with the second MDL trial. “After consecutive multi-plaintiffs trial verdicts against J&J and DePuy,” Navan states, “evidence is clear that the Pinnacle metal-on-metal hips are problematic and the defendants should do the right thing in order to compensate and resolve the remainder of these cases that are filed in various cases around the country, as well as in the MDL.”
Navan is Beasley Allen’s lead attorney on the metal-on-metal hip implant litigation. He was not only selected to the Pinnacle PSC, but also selected to the PSC for the DePuy “ASR” Hip Implant Recall MDL. Navan also was appointed as Co-Lead Counsel for the Plaintiffs Executive Committee in the Biomet M2a Magnum Hip Implant Products Liability MDL. For more information about hip litigation, contact Navan at Navan.Ward@beasleyallen.com.
The next bellwether trial is scheduled to begin in September 2017, with 10 Plaintiffs from New York. 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.