BREAKING – Dallas, Texas – Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was hit with a landmark $498 Million verdict today in the second bellwether trial, which has been ongoing for over 2 months. The trial was over allegedly defective Pinnacle® hip prosthetics which were manufactured by Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopedics Inc. unit. This is the first time that Johnson & Johnson has lost over their hip joint replacement products.
In the case, plaintiff attorneys from multiple firms represented 5 patients who were all allegedly harmed by J&J’s defective hip prosthetics. Patients accused Johnson & Johnson of hiding flaws in its Pinnacle hip products – flaws which caused the devices to fail prematurely and leave patients in pain and in need of additional surgical procedures.
This afternoon’s verdict marks a giant win for the case’s plaintiffs. Most notably, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $360 Million in punitive damages, or damages assessed to punish a company for acting in negligence. $142 Million was also awarded to plaintiffs for actual, compensatory damages.
The Case against Johnson & Johnson
The 5 plaintiffs in the trial all underwent a hip arthroplasty procedure, or surgical replacement of one’s hip joint with an artificial prosthesis. Typically, such a procedure is conducted on people who have hip-joint diseases and have responded poorly to standard medical therapy. In all 5 cases, the prosthetics used on each of the patients were DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal devices – a device which J&J stopped selling in 2013, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) toughened up its artificial hip replacement standards.
Plaintiffs alleged that the devices caused serious health problems, including inflammation of surrounding tissues, bone erosion, and metallosis – which is a horrific, toxic condition caused when a hip-replacement device’s metal components grind against one another and shred metal debris directly into a person’s bloodstream.
In mid-January, U.S. District judge Ed Kinkeade had ruled that all 5 patients shared enough commonality among them that they should be consolidated into 1, single trial against defendants Johnson & Johnson and DePuy. According to Judge Kinkeade, all 5 patients had undergone the same surgery and stepped forward with similar bodily injuries.
One plaintiff attorney claimed that DePuy’s ASR Hip System, which was recalled in 2010, forced J&J to essentially “double-down” on its marketing efforts with their newer hip joint replacement device, the DePuy Pinnacle. Part of J&J’s strategy was, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys, to limit the financial damages caused by their recall by ensuring surgeons that their metal-on-metal device was a safe alternative.
Johnson & Johnson Allegedly Knew the Risks
In spite of J&J’s claims that their Pinnacle hip devices were safe, and in spite of the fact that about 170,000 devices had been sold in the U.S. to date, over 1,300 adverse event complaints had been made to the FDA regarding the device. Plaintiffs claimed that Johnson & Johnson was aware of the increased risk their metal-on-metal device had for metallosis and chose not to warn the public. Such a warning, plaintiffs alleged, would’ve resulted in a halting of Johnson & Johnson’s ever-growing profits.
Plaintiff attorneys also alleged that Johnson & Johnson knew that patients implanted with these devices had unsafe levels of both cobalt and chromium in their blood.
According to court documents, there are now over 8,000 cases against Johnson & Johnson and DePuy, and all cases involve Pinnacle devices that have sockets with metal, ceramic, or polyethylene lining.