Six Pinnacle hip implant patients have been awarded $247 million in damages after a month-long trial in Texas.
By Laurence Banville
Alongside subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics, global health care giant Johnson & Johnson was hit with a $247 million jury verdict on Thursday, November 16, 2017 in the case of six patients who alleged severe injuries after receiving a DePuy Pinnacle hip implant. As Law 360 reports, it was the third Pinnacle bellwether trial to see plaintiffs awarded damages in excess of $500 million.
Month-Long Hip Trial Ends In $247 Million VerdictThe lawsuit included the claims of six individual patients, all from New York. Metal-on-metal hip implants, the plaintiffs argued, are liable to cause metallosis, a condition in which metal debris from the device collects in the body's soft tissues. The patients said Pinnacle implants had caused them severe injuries, including widespread tissue death and bone deterioration.
Held in Dallas, the trial lasted 31 days. After roughly 14 hours of deliberation, the jury unanimously decided that the Pinnacle implants at issue had been designed defectively. Jurors also concluded that Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary had failed to to warn the medical community and patients about the device's risks.
Nearly $78 million in compensatory damages was awarded to the six patients. Four of the plaintiff's spouses were granted loss of consortium awards of a combined $1.7 million. Johnson & Johnson was then hit with $90 million in punitive damages. A similar penalty, totaling $78 million, was leveled against DePuy Orthopaedics.
"I'm stunned the amount was that high," Mark Lanier, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told reporters at Law360 after the verdict. Lanier was particularly surprised in this case, after US District Judge Ed Kinkeade excluded a number of incriminating Johnson & Johnson documents from evidence. "He kept out every piece of reprehensible evidence that he could," Lanier continued, "and I was scared to death we'd walk away with nothing."
Massive Pinnacle Multi-District LitigationOver 9,000 similar lawsuits are still pending as a consolidated litigation in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The specific implants and compoments mentioned in the cases vary, but all hail from DePuy Orthopaedic's line of Pinnacle Ultamet devices. Johnson & Johnson attorneys describe the Ultamet implants, which come from the controversial class of metal-on-metal devices, as a "reasonable option" for some patients, but plaintiffs' attorneys aren't buying it.
At trial, counsel for the six individual plaintiffs told the jury that DePuy had fraudulently promoted the implant as "99% successful," despite substantial medical evidence to the contrary. Jurors were also told that the company used cheap materials during the manufacturing process, exacerbating the alleged problems inherent to metal-on-metal hip designs.
Hip Patients Win Over $1.7 BillionFour bellwether cases have now gone to trial in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The earliest of these trials resulted in a verdict for the defense, but since then, plaintiffs have carried the day. In three subsequent trials, hip implant patients were awarded damages in excess of $500 million. A group of plaintiffs from California was granted a combined award over $1 billion. The Texas federal court subsequently reduced these massive awards in accordance with a State law limiting punitive damages.
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