Product-producing giant Johnson & Johnson, along with its DePuy unit, lost a $500 million verdict in a case involving five plaintiffs who alleged they were injured by defective hip implants. Specifically, the Pinnacle metal-on-metal implants, which are known to not only fail more quickly than advertised, but to cause serious injury in the form of tissue damage, bone erosion and high levels of metal in patients’ blood.
The decision followed a two-month trial and a one-week juror deliberation period. Jurors ultimately decided these artificial hips were not only defectively designed, but that the companies that sold them did not warn the public about the potential risk, as they had a duty to do.
This prompted jurors to award not just $140 million in compensatory damages, but an additional $360 million in punitive damages. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the victim. Punitive damages, which are also paid to the victim(s), are intended to punish the defendant for egregious behavior and gross negligence.
The outcome of this case was significant to defective hip implant victims for a few reasons. The first, of course, is the amount of money that was awarded. It amounts to $100 million per plaintiff.
Secondly, it’s only the second federal trial involving this device. In the first trial, two years ago, Johnson & Johnson had been cleared of any liability. The outcome of this case reveals that not only are these cases winnable, they are absolutely worthy of pursuing.
As of right now, there are more than 8,000 lawsuits against Pinnacle pending in a consolidated action in Texas, where this case was filed.
It is worth pointing out that Texas statute allows the limitation of punitive damages that plaintiffs can receive. Appellate courts often reduce these amounts, and we’re likely to see that here. It’s possible the punitive damages could be reduced to as little as $10 million total. Still, the fact that there are so many cases still pending means that Johnson & Johnson is facing substantial losses if it does not start brokering settlement agreements with victims.
The results of these early cases aren’t binding, of course, but they certainly have the potential to influence Johnson & Johnson’s action on future cases.
All five of the plaintiffs in this case were residents of Texas who had been implanted with Pinnacle devices. At the time of implant, Johnson & Johnson and DePuy promised these implants would be:
- Best for those who were young
- Ideal for those with an active lifestyle
But in fact, the risks were substantial – and these firms were well aware of it, plaintiffs alleged. Although Johnson & Johnson representatives testified that the hip implants were thoroughly tested and marketed in a responsible manner, plaintiffs argued this wasn’t true. The company aggressively marketed these products, knowing the potential dangers, and didn’t tell consumers about the health risks they were taking on.
It’s telling that in 2013, DePuy halted sales of the metal-on-metal models of Pinnacle hip implants. That same year, the company forked over $2.5 billion to settle some 7,000 lawsuits filed over another hip implant device it made. That model, the ASR, was also a metal-on-metal design. It had been recalled in 2010.
If you are the victim of Massachusetts product liability, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.
Johnson & Johnson hit with $500 million verdict in hip implant trial, March 17, 2016, By Jessica Dye, Reuters
More Blog Entries:
Johnson & Johnson Agrees to Transvaginal Mesh Settlement, Feb. 26, 2016, Boston DePuy Hip Implant Lawyer Blog