More explosive details have emerged from the recent settlement issued by global healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson, which seeks to resolve a host of claims filed over subsidiary Depuy Synthes' line of Pinnacle hip implants, Orthopedics This Week reports. In over 10,000 lawsuits, plaintiffs from across the country say the metal-on-metal hip replacement system causes severe and debilitating complications, including systemic metal poisoning.
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Now, sources speaking to Bloomberg on the condition of anonymity say Johnson & Johnson is prepared to settle thousands of the cases for an average of $125,000 per claim. Court filings submitted in December revealed that Johnson & Johnson has settled or is preparing to settle around 3,300 of the lawsuits, whittling the number of pending cases to approximately 6,700.
Sources tell Bloomberg that Johnson & Johnson is on the verge of finalizing around $413 million in payouts to resolve claims, with plans to resolve the remaining lawsuits before a preliminary bellwether trial is scheduled to take place in Dallas on January 14, 2019.
The estimated $125,000 award to each plaintiff is sure to rile the anger of many patient advocates and injured patients, many of whom credit the Pinnacle hip system for ruining their lives and leaving them with chronic pain and other health problems. At the same time, these are the first settlements announced in what has become a grueling seven-year legal battle over the allegedly defective hip implants, which were recalled in 2013.
Whether or not the remaining plaintiffs will refuse Johnson & Johnson's settlement offers is unknown, but there are rumors that Johnson & Johnson is highly-motivated to settle, in the hope of avoiding further trials. A new trial is scheduled to begin on January 14, when five Pinnacle hip patients will hope to prove that DePuy failed to test the devices properly before releasing them onto the market and deceived doctors about their safety.
Johnson & Johnson has already faced stiff losses over its roster of Pinnacle-branded hip implants. In fact, the company has been hemorrhaging revenue because of the hip replacement system for over two years. In August 2018, a jury in Texas ruled that the company had committed fraud and deception in marketing the Pinnacle hip implant, awarding a group of injured plaintiffs over $246 million in compensation. The six men and women involved in the case alleged that their own Pinnacle hip replacements had led to severe injuries, including tissue death, bone erosion and metal toxicity.
Earlier, in December of 2016, a federal jury in Dallas ordered DePuy and Johnson & Johnson to pay over $1 billion in damages to six plaintiffs who claimed to have been severely injured by the Pinnacle system. The legitimacy of that verdict is now being considered by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and sources confirm that Johnson & Johnson is worried that, if upheld, the $1 billion award could dramatically increase the value of outstanding claims - hence the company's urgency to settle the cases as soon as possible.
Instead of brokering a single global settlement to resolve all of the Pinnacle claims in one fell swoop, Johnson & Johnson has chosen to settle groups of claims represented by individual attorneys. This is a common tactic employed by defendants in large litigations. Often, a defendant will settle first claims associated with attorneys who have spearheaded a litigation, hoping to remove the litigation's leadership from the scene.
2019 is shaping up to be a banner year for hip implant settlements. Alongside Johnson & Johnson, medical device manufacturer Stryker has informed a federal judge in Massachusetts of its intention to settle hundreds of lawsuits filed over the LFIT CoCr V40 femoral head, a hip implant component linked to severe plaintiff injuries. As in the case of DePuy Synthes, Stryker appears to be settling cases associated with individual plaintiffs' attorneys.