Pharmaceutical and medical device giant Johnson & Johnson was hit with a huge, nearly $500 million verdict earlier this year over its defective Pinnacle hip implant made by subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics. Plaintiffs in the first bellwether trial claimed that the company failed to warn them about the risks of these metal-on-metal hips and the jury agreed. It awarded patients close to $130 million and also slapped DePuy and Johnson & Johnson with nearly $360 million in punitive damages. The total came to just about $500 million, but now the company wants to appeal that verdict and delay the rest of the bellwether trials.
The DePuy Pinnacle Hip
The Pinnacle hip system was designed to replace all components of a hip joint due to age- and arthritis-related damage, or because of an injury. The hip system is a metal-on-metal system, meaning that all components are made of metal alloys as opposed to ceramics or plastic. Metal-on-metal hips are recent developments in artificial joints, designed to be sturdier and to last longer in younger and more active patients.
Unfortunately, the Pinnacle hip system has posed a number of problems resulting in more than 8,000 lawsuits. Plaintiffs bringing cases against Johnson & Johnson and DePuy claim that the hip fails more often than it should, that it causes tissue inflammation, bone erosion, and metal poisoning as small fragments of the metal joint break off and enter the bloodstream. These plaintiffs claim the company made a faulty product and failed to warn them of the risks of using this artificial joint.
The Second Bellwether Settlement
The second bellwether trial over pinnacle hip implants took two months and resulted in a jury decision that costs the company nearly $500 million. The jury agreed that the product was defective and that the DePuy did not warn patients adequately about the potential risks. The first bellwether trial ended in Johnson & Johnson’s favor in October of 2014. The jury in that case acquitted DePuy and denied plaintiffs a settlement.
Johnson & Johnson Appeals
Johnson & Johnson immediately made a move to appeal the decision in the second bellwether trial and announced that it hopes to see the punitive damages reduced to $10 million or less. The company is appealing on the basis of testimony and evidence that was speculative, inflammatory, and prejudiced. With the next bellwether trial set to start soon, it has asked the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to speed up the process, after being denied a stay for the third trial.
Johnson & Johnson is appealing the settlement award because it believes that some of the evidence brought by the plaintiffs should not have been admitted. This includes testimony from expert witnesses that was given on behalf of companies totally unrelated to the case, references to the henchmen of Saddam Hussein, and unsubstantiated claims that the Pinnacle hips could increase a patient’s risk of developing cancer.
Stay Denied, Third Bellwether Trial Proceeds
DePuy and Johnson & Johnson had hoped to get a stay on the third trial to give the companies time to appeal the second trial’s settlement. However, that stay was denied by Judge Ed Kinkeade of the Northern Texas U.S. District Court. The judge stated that the stay was not justified, especially for a multidistrict case that has been on hold for nearly five years. The judge also warned the defendants that it was their evidence that opened the door to the plaintiffs bringing in evidence—that Johnson & Johnson thought was inflammatory and irrelevant—to refute it. The third bellwether trial is set to begin soon, while the appeal is ongoing.