Dallas Jury Awards $1B In Hip Implant Lawsuit
Johnson & Johnson must pay $1.041 billion to six California residents who experienced serious side effects from their metal-on-metal (MoM) hip implants; the jurors declared that the devices were defectively designed and that DePuy Orthopaedics, a division of Johnson & Johnson, failed to adequately warn consumers.
DePuy originally marketed these devices as safe and long-lasting alternatives to ceramic-on-metal (CoM) and plastic-on-metal (PoM) implants. But the plaintiffs experienced serious complications, including bone loss and tissue death. Since the verdict included only $32 million in compensatory damages, the judge will probably reduce the punitive damages award to meet punitive damages caps in Texas law. However, the message is clear, according to lead plaintiffs’ counsel Mark Lanier. Johnson & Johnson has “a really nasty part of their business they need to clean up,” he commented. DePuy stopped selling Pinnacle MoM implants in 2013, and last year, the pharmaceutical giant paid $2.5 billion to settle 7,000 actions related to the similar ASR implants, which were recalled in 2010.
In a statement, Johnson & Johnson vowed to appeal because “the court’s rulings precluded a fair presentation to the jury.”
Hip Implant Side Effects
Professional golfer Tom Watson is the poster boy for MoM hip implants. He received an artificial hip in 2008, and in the next two years, he narrowly lost the British Open and had a top-twenty Masters finish after shooting an opening-round 67. But Mr. Watson’s experience was the rare exception as opposed to the general rule.
Hip and knee implants are among the most common elective surgical procedures among people over 50. Human hips are cup-and-socket joints, and older PoM/CoM devices had plastic or ceramic cups and metal balls. These devices normally lasted a few years before the cups wore out. DePuy, Zimmerman, and other hip implant manufacturers claimed that MoM implants would essentially last forever, since the metal cups would not wear out.
The metal-on-metal friction does not cause wear and tear in the traditional sense, but it does cause microscopic fragments to flake off with every step. The resulting metallosis (metal poisoning) inflames and infects the surrounding tissue and dislocates the hip implants within four or five years in many cases, causing intense pain. At best, victims lose whatever mobility they had before the surgery; at worst, the metallosis migrates to vital organs and becomes fatal.
Both failure to warn and defective design are strict liability issues, so defendants who fail to warn consumers or sell poorly designed products are liable for damages as a matter of law.
Companies have a duty to warn about all non-obvious side effects. So, while matchbox manufacturers do not have a duty to warn consumers that the matches could start fires, hip implant manufacturers clearly have a duty to warn about possible metallosis. It is immaterial whether the device makers did not know about the risk or ignored it, because liability attaches either way. Similarly, gadget makers are strictly liable for design defects if the product was unsafe for its intended uses as it was originally designed. Some jurisdictions require plaintiffs to prove that the manufacturer rejected a reasonable alternative design.
Victims in defective device cases are entitled to compensation for their economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. As the Dallas hip implant case indicates, juries often award significant punitive damages in these cases as well.
MoM hip implants, and other dangerous medical devices, often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Glasgow, contact Attorney Gart S. Logsdon. After hours appointments are available.