UPDATED March 18, 2016, with additional comment from DePuy, plaintiffs’ and defendant’s attorneys.
A Texas federal jury today slapped Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics with a $500 million judgment in favor of a quintet of plaintiffs who said the metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip implant caused 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. Jurors awarded about $130 million in total compensatory damages and about $360 million in punitive damages, said plaintiffs’ lead trial lawyer Mark Lanier.
“There are thousands of these cases, and J&J needs to get responsible,” Lanier said.
The 1st bellwether trial in the Pinnacle multi-district litigation went J&J’s way in October 2014, when the jury acquitted DePuy. Last month, the company won another legal victory with the dismissal of a False Claims Act lawsuit brought by a pair of British surgeons over its since-discontinued Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant.
J&J spokeswoman Mindy Tinsley told MassDevice.com that the company plans to appeal the most recent verdict immediately.
“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,” Tinsley wrote in an email. “DePuy acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing of Ultamet metal-on-metal, and the product is backed by a strong record of safety and effectiveness in reducing pain and restoring mobility for patients suffering from chronic hip pain.”
“We expect this to be a pyrrhic victory for plaintiffs’ counsel as the grounds for appeal are strong and the punitive damages will be reduced to around $10 million subject to the Texas statutory cap,” added John Beisner, counsel for the defendants, in a separate email. “The lead plaintiff lawyer in this case, Mr. Lanier, has a history of pushing the evidentiary envelope at trial to score substantial verdicts, only to have those trial court victories reversed on appeal. For example, in the Vioxx litigation, all 3 of his trial victories were rejected by appellate courts. We believe this may be another such case, as we have substantial grounds for appeal that we hope the 5th Circuit will carefully consider.”
Beisner estimated that punitive damages could be reduced to as little as $10 million.
“This is a significant and well-earned victory for the plaintiffs, who have suffered major injuries caused by these dangerous devices,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Jayne Conroy said in prepared remarks. “The evidence in the testimony against J&J has been ground breaking, particularly in relation to what, in effect, amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to orthopedic surgeons to use and recommend this product.”
According to Conroy, plaintiffs’ attorneys also discovered several instances in which physicians lied in medical clinical testing of the devices and forged consent forms for patients who were using the product to lie about the results the patients experienced with the product.
“So, apart from the DePuy Pinnacle implant being a bad device to begin with, the deeper story has a much more evil component to it due to the manipulation of science to sell the product,” Conroy added.
Material from Reuters was used in this report.