December 1, 2016 — A federal jury in Dallas, Texas awarded over $1 billion to six plaintiffs from California who were injured by the Pinnacle Ultamet metal-on-metal hip implant.
DePuy Orthopedics, Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is facing more than 8,600 similar lawsuits in the Northern District of Texas.
It is the second “bellwether” trial in the MDL. The last trial ended in a $500 million jury award, which was cut to $150 million under Texas laws capping punitive damages. This time, because all six plaintiffs are from California, the same law does not apply.
The jury spent one day deliberating after a two-month trial. In closing arguments, Houston attorney Mark Lanier suggested that $500 million in punitive damages would hardly be felt by the $72 billion defendant.
According to Law360, each of the six plaintiffs were awarded between $4-6 million for physical injuries, $1 million to four spouses for loss of consortium, and $1 billion in punitive damages against DePuy and J&J. It is the 3rd-largest jury award in 2016, Bloomberg reports.
Lanier told the jury that DePuy marketed the Pinnacle as “99.9% successful” when only 53% were successful after 11 years. He also said the implant was never adequately tested for safety:
It’s common sense that you don’t rub metal against metal without there being adequate lubrication. They never solved any of the metal-on-metal problems. But they went to market anyway.”
DePuy never recalled the Pinnacle, but withdrew it from the market in 2013 a few months after the FDA ordered new safety studies.
The FDA approved most metal-on-metal hips without safety studies because manufacturers claimed they were “equivalent” to plastic and ceramic designs. Then manufacturers marketed all-metal hips as more durable, ideal for younger and more physically-active patients. Thousands of those patients have been permanently disabled.
The FDA has issued numerous warnings about the unique risks of the design — specifically, an all-metal “ball and socket” sheds tiny particles of chromium and cobalt when the pieces grind together. The metal particles accumulate around the hip and cause chronic pain, inflammation, tissue death, bone loss, and early revision surgery.
The revision surgery is physically traumatic. The diseased bones and tissues must be removed, which makes it harder to correctly fit a new implant, and a new stem must be driven into the femur. Revision surgery also does not cure side effects in other parts of the body. Metal particles in the bloodstream (metallosis) has been linked to brain damage, depression, heart problems, thyroid dysfunction, and more.
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