July 28, 2014 — DePuy Orthopedics is facing about 6,400 lawsuits involving the Pinnacle hip replacement. The judge presiding over the federal litigation has also rejected attempts by DePuy to throw out most claims or delay “bellwether” trials.
A Master Case List (PDF) filed July 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas lists 6,382 cases. The litigation has grown rapidly since it was centralized in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) in 2011. All of the lawsuits are overseen by Judge James E. Kinkeade.
Last week, Judge Kinkeade allowed two bellwether trials to proceed. Plaintiffs are seeking damages against DePuy for failure to warn about side effects, design defects, and more. The first “bellwether” trials are scheduled for September 2014. Attorneys will use these trials to evaluate how a jury will respond to evidence. If the jury awards damages, the trials can also help expedite settlement negotiations.
DePuy Orthopedics, a subsidiary unit of Johnson & Johnson, stopped selling the Pinnacle and other metal-on-metal hip implants after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanded new safety studies.
Members of the litigation allege that the all-metal design is defective because the metal parts grind together and shed particles of chromium and cobalt. Over time, metal debris can accumulate in a patient’s hip joint. This can lead to localized tissue reactions, chronic pain, swelling, inflammation, and more. The metal can also enter a patient’s bloodstream and lead to metallosis (metal poisoning), with long-term systemic reactions in other areas of the body.
DePuy has already offered $2.5 billion to settle about 8,000 lawsuits involving the ASR, another metal-on-metal hip replacement. After recalling the ASR in 2010, studies linked it to a 40% five-year failure rate. The Pinnacle has been linked to similar types of complications as the ASR, but it has not been recalled.
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