UPDATED Dec. 2, 2016, with quotes from plaintiff’s and defense attorneys and DePuy Orthopedics.
A federal jury in Dallas today ordered Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and its subsidiary DePuy Orthopedics to pay more than $1 billion to 6 plaintiffs claiming to be injured by its Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implants, according to the plaintiffs lawyers.
Jurors in the case found that the metal-on-metal pinnacle hip implants were designed defectively and that the companies failed to appropriately warn patients of the risks associated with the devices. Plaintiff’s lawyer Mark Lanier said the $1.041 billion verdict included $32 million in compensatory damages and the remainder in punitive damages.
The New Brunswick, N.J.-based health products giant, which faces roughly 8,400 lawsuits over the hip implants, said it’s planning to immediately appeal the verdict and is committed to defending itself and DePuy from further litigation over the Pinnacle devices. Test cases in the MDL are being selected for trial; their outcomes will influence the course of the remaining suits.
Plaintiffs in the case, 6 California residents implanted with the Pinnacle devices, claimed they experienced tissue death, bone erosion and other injuries as a result of the design flaws. The individuals also claimed that the devices were promoted as longer laster than ceramic or plastic material devices.
Lanier, who told Reuters that J&J rejected a $1.8 million settlement offer before the trial, said yesterday’s verdict was “a message loud and clear” that J&J has “a really nasty part of their business they need to clean up.”
Johnson & Johnson criticized the trial judge on rulings it claimed help the plaintiffs.
“Today’s verdict provides no guidance on the merits of the overall Pinnacle litigation because the court’s rulings precluded a fair presentation to the jury,” J&J attorney John Beisner said in a prepared statement, adding that the company plans to ask an appeals court to table any pending trials in the MDL.
“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. DePuy acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing of [Pinnacle] 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,” DePuy spokesperson Mindy Tinsley said in prepared remarks.
In July, J&J and DePuy Orthopedics asked a federal appeals court this week to expedite the appeal of its $151 million loss in a product liability lawsuit brought over its Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant.
In March, a Texas federal jury slapped DePuy Orthopaedics with a $500 million judgment in favor of a quintet of plaintiffs who blamed the Pinnacle implant for their injuries. After a 2-month trial, jurors found that the Ultamet metal-on-metal version of the Pinnacle hips were defectively designed and that DePuy failed to warn patients about the risks, awarding $130 million in total compensatory damages and $360 million in punitive damages. DePuy won the 1st bellwether trial in the MDL, in October 2014. The judge in the case in July slashed the award to roughly $151 million.
J&J’s bid for a stay was denied by Judge Ed Kinkeade of the U.S. District Court for Northern Texas, but the appeals court has yet to decide on a similar request. Johnson & Johnson also sought to delay a 3rd bellwether trial slated to commence in September.
In a July 12 filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the company asked that court to speed its review of the appeal and asked that the 5 cases be consolidated into a single appeal.
In overturning the $500 million award in the 2nd bellwether, Kinkeade said he was compelled to reduce the verdict under a Texas state law limiting punitive damages according to a specific formula. Kinkeade also ruled that DePuy can’t delay the 3rd bellwether in the Pinnacle MDL; the company had asked the judge to give it enough time to appeal a $500 million jury verdict in the 2nd bellwether. DePuy wanted Kinkeade to pause the 3rd bellwether while the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit considers its petition for a writ of mandamus.
Material from Reuters was used in this report.