Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopaedics unit were ordered to pay more than $1 billion to six plaintiffs after a Texas jury found that the company hid flaws in its Pinnacle hip implants that led to serious complications.
The federal jury in Dallas concluded that the pharmaceutical giant knew about defects in the hip implants but failed to adequately warn patients and doctors about the risk of device failure. The Dec. 1 verdict includes roughly $30 million in damages for the six California residents and more than $1 billion in punitive damages against the companies.
Mark Lanier, the lead attorney in the suit, hailed the verdict as a victory for consumers and a rebuke against Johnson & Johnson.
“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 on his website. “This jury spoke loud and clear, and I hope J&J will finally listen.”
Johnson & Johnson and DePuy denied any wrongdoing and stood by their hip implant products after the verdict.
“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,” said DePuy spokesperson Mindy Tinsley in a statement.
Johnson & Johnson criticized the judge’s handling of the case and immediately announced its intention to challenge the verdict. Lawyers argued that U.S. District Judge James Edgar Kinkeade made rulings that prevented Johnson & Johnson from providing a fair presentation to the jury.
“Now the appellate court will need to review errors” made by the judge, attorney John Beisner said in an e-mailed statement, according to Bloomberg. The company will ask Kinkeade not to schedule any more trials until the appellate review is completed, he said.
Thousands of Pinnacle Lawsuits Still Pending
Almost 9,000 additional cases against Johnson & Johnson for manufacturing and marketing a defective device are still pending before Judge Kinkeade in the Northern District of Texas. The case earlier this month is the third of what’s called a bellwether trial. This is when select Multilitigation District (MDL) cases go to trial to help guide the decision of similar cases still pending.
A jury in the first bellwether case in 2014 cleared Johnson & Johnson and DePuy of liability from a Montana woman’s claim that a defective Pinnacle device resulted in metal particles seeping into her bloodstream.
In the second test case from March 2016, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $502 million to a group of patients also alleging that the company hid flaws in its artificial hips, which resulted in pain and additional surgeries. The federal jury awarded $142 million in damages and $360 million in punitive damages. Judge Kinkeade reduced the punitive damages to $10 million based on a Texas statutory cap.
With the third bellwether case going against Johnson & Johnson, plaintiffs are expecting the company to start exploring settlement options. Johnson & Johnson turned down a $1.8 million settlement offer before the trial.
“The jury is telling J&J that they better settle these cases soon,” 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.”
So far, Johnson & Johnson has not indicated it will settle any cases and is continuing efforts to appeal its two losses related to Pinnacle. Despite efforts by the pharmaceutical company to stop any future cases while the appeals are pending, another test trial involving claims from 10 Pinnacle hip recipients is scheduled for September 2017.