Global healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay around $1 billion in compensation to resolve thousands of lawsuits filed over the company's metal-on-metal hip implants, according to Bloomberg. In their cases, plaintiffs from across the country accuse J&J of selling defective hip implants that lead to severe complications and required removal procedures.
Learn more from our team of attorneys if you've seen the Dupuy Pinnacle hip recall commercial.
With new settlement agreements in place, experts say Johnson & Johnson has now resolved more than 95% of some 6,000 claims in which surgeons were forced to remove Pinnacle hip implants due to product defects linked to mobility problems and chronic pain. Bloomberg's source comes from two people "familiar with the settlements," who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the agreement.
The $1 billion figure quoted by the two sources includes a settlement in excess of $400 million issued at an earlier rate. Sources suggest that the new settlement funds leave unresolved about 4,500 lawsuits filed by patients with artificial hips who have implants that aren't made entirely out of metal, along with patients who have yet to undergo removal surgeries. The two sources say it's currently unclear whether any of those additional cases will be settled anytime soon.
In settling the outstanding cases, attorneys for Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary DePuy, manufacturer of the Pinnacle hip implants, chose not to establish a global settlement program, which would have resolved the cases in one fell swoop. Instead, the attorneys cut separate deals with each set of plaintiffs' attorneys. J&J spokesperson Mindy Tinsley said on Tuesday that settlement negotiations in the Pinnacle hip replacement cases were ongoing.
With $1 billion in settlements in the books, Johnson & Johnson is preparing to wrap up over four years of contentious litigation. In their hip implant lawsuits, patients who received the device blame the product for years of severe pain and limited mobility. Over the years, researchers have established that metal-on-metal implants pose unique risks to patient health. In particular, the implant's metal components can grind together during normal use, leading to the release of metal particles. Absorbed by surrounding soft tissues, these metal particles can lead to metallosis, a condition marked by tissue death.
Johnson & Johnson's latest round of hip implant settlements come after a series of high-profile defeats in court. Over the last three years, juries in Texas have ordered the company to pay over $1.5 billion in damages to Pinnacle hip patients who accused the manufacturer of misleading the public about the product's safety and performance. While many of these awards were later decreased by upper courts, and several were thrown out entirely, the plaintiff victories no doubt increased the pressure on J&J to settle the remaining cases, rather than face further jury awards.
Even more persuasive, however, was a lawsuit filed by the state attorneys general in 46 states, who accused J&J of making deceptive marketing claims about the Pinnacle hip's durability. In January, Johnson & Johnson agreed to settle the claims of improper marketing and deceptive trade practices for a total of $120 million. J&J had long argued that approximately 99.2% of the metal-on-metal hip implants would last for at least three years. European health regulators, on the other hand, have found that only 7% of the Pinnacle replacements hold up for that long, with the majority failing before that time.
According to Bloomberg's sources, J&J is at this point only settling cases in which patients underwent removal procedures for their defective Pinnacle hip implants. There are no immediate plans to settle the claims of patients who fear the threat of a removal surgery in the future. Sources say J&J is resolving attorney case loads individually, issuing lump sums that plaintiffs' attorneys can then divvy up between their clients. This allows higher compensation awards to be apportioned to patients who have suffered more severe injuries.
Johnson & Johnson removed metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip implants from the market in 2013 following increased scrutiny of the devices from the Food & Drug Administration. In a February report for the US Securities and Exchange Commission, prepared prior to either round of settlements, the company said it was facing a total of 10,500 lawsuits related to the implant. Now that J&J has settled approximately 6,000 of those cases, sources estimate that 4,500 remain to be resolved.
The remaining cases continue to be consolidated before a federal district judge in Texas, where several cases have already been moved to trial. Johnson & Johnson won the first trial, but lost the next two, including one jury verdict of $1 billion.
Continue Reading: British High Court Dismisses Pinnacle Hip Implant Class Action