What DePuy Hip Implant Commercials Won’t Tell You
To date, more than 8,400 people have sued Johnson & Johnson and DePuy Orthopaedics over Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implants, Reuters reports.
In their lawsuits, patients claim that these hip implants were defectively designed, leading to severe, in some cases life-threatening, personal injuries. Their allegations, along with the findings of many jury members, suggest that Pinnacle implants can fail at an extremely early date, despite having been advertised as longer-lasting than other options.
Huge Jury Verdicts Spur DePuy Hip Implant Litigation
The billion dollar verdict, rendered on December 1, 2016, isn’t the first time Johnson & Johnson has been held responsible for selling what many believe are defective hip implants. In fact, it’s the second major trial in which a jury has found DePuy Orthopaedics, along with parent company Johnson & Johnson, liable for injuries linked to the Pinnacle Hip Implant. In both cases, federal juries in Dallas have held, not only that the hip implants were defectively designed, but that both companies failed to warn orthopedic surgeons of the medical device’s risks.
The new verdict, however, represents a significant step forward for plaintiffs. The jury’s decision includes $32 million of compensatory damages, money that is intended to compensate the six patients for their medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. The bulk of the award, over $1 billion, comes in the form of punitive damages, which are meant to punish defendants for particularly reckless misconduct.
The jury’s opinion was clear: DePuy Orthopedics sold a defective hip implant. Johnson & Johnson signed off on the wrongdoing. An even earlier trial, though, was decided in favor of Johnson & Johnson, which has announced that it plans to appeal the most recent decision immediately, according to Fortune. The multinational consumer conglomerate continues to deny any wrongdoing, as does its subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics.
What Is The Depuy Pinnacle MDL?
The commercial you saw may have mentioned that all lawsuits involving Pinnacle metal-on-metal implants have been “consolidated” in an MDL. But what does that mean?
MDL is a shortened version of “Multi-District Litigation.” When multiple federal courts receive very similar lawsuits, a panel of judges can decide to transfer them all to a single court. This creates a Multi-District Litigation, or MDL. The lawsuits are “consolidated,” brought together under a single judge, who will be able to make rulings that affect each complaint equally. MDL also allows plaintiffs’ attorneys, who otherwise would be working in isolation, to pool their resources, crafting legal arguments together.
The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation chose to consolidate personal injury cases involving DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implants more than five years ago, on May 24, 2011. Soon, cases from across the country were being transferred to the US District Court for the Northern District Texas in Dallas. The MDL has been presided over by Judge Ed Kinkeade, who was appointed to the Court by President George W. Bush in 2002.
Multi-District Litigation is meant to make “pre-trial proceedings” more efficient. Numerous steps must be taken before a case can go to trial, and these are the steps that plaintiffs will handle together in an MDL. Perhaps most important is Discovery, the phase of a lawsuit in which plaintiff and defendant can demand information from one another. In a very real sense, the information obtained during discovery will form the foundation of the lawsuit when it is argued at trial.
DePuy Hip Implant Trials
Theoretically, an MDL doesn’t need to go any further than that. Once pre-trial proceedings have been completed, and the cases are ready for trial, each lawsuit can be sent back to its original court. In practice, most MDL judges pick out a slate of individual lawsuits that should go to trial before the others. These “bellwether” trials are very real. They’re heard in front of real juries, who make real and binding decisions about the defendant’s liability.
While these decisions only affect the specific case in question, the results of a bellwether trial often come to inform settlement negotiations. Defendants who have lost a bellwether trial, for example, may be more willing to settle the remaining cases, rather than fight each one in court.
Juries: DePuy, J&J Sold “Defective” Hip Implant
The Dallas Court has already overseen three bellwether trials in the DePuy Hip Implant MDL. In the first trial, decided on October 23, 2014, a Dallas jury found in favor of Johnson & Johnson. The company would not have such good fortune in subsequent cases.
On March 17, 2016, a second jury in Dallas announced its decision in 5 cases, representing 8 separate plaintiffs. The verdict was a resounding victory for patients. In their decision (PDF), the jurors found Johnson & Johnson liable on numerous counts, ruling that:
- DePuy’s Pinnacle Ultamet Hip Implant was defective in design
- The implant’s design defect was a “substantial factor” in causing the injuries of the plaintiffs
- DePuy failed to provide adequate warnings of the hip implant’s dangers
- These risks were either known to DePuy or should have been known by DePuy
- DePuy’s failure to warn was a “substantial factor” in causing the injuries of the plaintiffs
- Johnson & Johnson “failed to exercise reasonable care” in providing services to DePuy
- Johnson & Johnson’s negligence was a “substantial factor” in causing the injuries of the plaintiffs
- Johnson & Johnson gave “substantial assistance or encouragement” to the wrongdoing of DePuy Orthopaedics
- by “clear and convincing evidence,” the harm inflicted on patients was caused by the gross negligence and fraud of DePuy Orthopaedics and Johnson & Johnson
Again, Johnson & Johnson and DePuy deny any and all of the allegations listed above. Two juries, as we’ve seen, have disagreed. In the second DePuy hip implant trial, the jury awarded the 8 plaintiffs over $500 million in compensation, nearly three-fourths of which came as punitive damages. The judgement was reduced, in line with a Texas law limiting the amount of punitive damages, to $151 million. On the basis of nearly identical allegations, a second jury went even further, awarding six patients over $1.041 billion.
Can You File A Pinnacle Hip Implant Lawsuit?
In the wake of these huge jury verdicts, legal experts believe that thousands of other patients may still be able to pursue hip implant lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and DePuy Orthopaedics. If you or a loved one suffered injuries after being implanted with one of DePuy’s metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip implants, our experienced product liability attorneys can help.
Call The Product Lawyers today for a free consultation. After reviewing your situation, our attorneys will help you understand your legal options – in clear, no nonsense language.