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J&J Ordered to Pay $1 Billion Over Metal-on-Metal Hips

Kristopher Sturgis

December 2, 2016

3 Min Read
J&J Ordered to Pay $1 Billion Over Metal-on-Metal Hips

The company says it plans to immediately appeal the verdict, which ordered the company to pay over $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages to six plaintiffs who were implanted with defective hip devices. 

Kristopher Sturgis

Six different California residents were awarded over $1 billion in damages this week by a federal jury in Dallas to compensate for injuries sustained by Pinnacle hip implants that were defectively designed. The federal jury ruled that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its DePuy Orthopedics unit failed to warn consumers about the risks of their ULTAMET Metal-on-Metal hip implants.

The plaintiffs in the case reported a bevy of complications as a result of the defective implants including tissue death, bone erosion, and other injuries that were attributed to design flaws in the device. The plaintiffs also claimed that the two companies falsely promoted that the device would last longer than traditional implants made from ceramic or plastic materials.

Both J&J and DePuy denied any wrongdoing from the development process or marketing of the device, and in a statement released yesterday J&J announced their intentions to immediately appeal the verdict. The company also outlined that they are committed to defending themselves and DePuy from further litigation, as the two companies face more than 8,000 lawsuits over the hip implants.

"We have no greater responsibility than to the patients who use our products, and our goal is to create medical innovations that help people live more active and comfortable lives," said Mindy Tinsley, a spokesperson for DePuy in an official statement following 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."

The trial in Dallas centered around six individual cases chosen by the plaintiff's executive committee concerning DePuy's ULTAMET Metal-on-Metal articulation hip replacement, and the two companies have already begun to file post-trial motions to challenge the verdict returned on Thursday. According to the plaintiff's lawyer Mark Lanier, the total damages awarded were $1.041 billion, including $32 million in compensatory damages, with the rest falling under punitive damages.

J&J and DePuy have accumulated almost 8,400 separate lawsuits over the implants, all of which have been consolidated in Texas federal court where test cases have already been selected for trial. In July of this year a separate test case awarded plaintiffs a $500 million verdict over a Pinnacle implant, which was eventually reduced to $151 million after a Texas state law limited the amount of punitive damages -- a decision the plaintiffs plan to appeal.

In a statement following the trial, J&J attorney John Beisner was critical of the trial judge over certain rulings, claiming that they benefitted the plaintiffs. He also stated that the company will ask the appeals court to postpone any additional trials over the defective implant device.

As for the implant devices themselves, DePuy stopped selling the metal-on-metal Pinnacle devices in 2013 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tightened its artificial hip regulations. That same year J&J and DePuy also paid out $2.5 billion to settle over 7,000 different lawsuits over their ASR metal-on-metal hip devices, which were recalled in 2010 due to complications from high failure rates. 

Kristopher Sturgis is a contributor to Qmed.

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About the Author(s)

Kristopher Sturgis

Kristopher Sturgis is a freelance contributor to MD+DI.

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