Johnson & Johnson was hit with the second-largest jury award issued this year for its role in the pain and injuries sustained by patients implanted with Pinnacle hip replacements.
$502 million was awarded to a group of five patients in a Dallas federal court. $142 million was awarded in damages. The remaining $360 million was awarded as a punitive measure against Johnson & Johnson.
Texas law caps punitive damages in such situations at around $10 million, according to lawyers for the corporation. That may be a hard fact for plaintiffs in the case to accept; especially given the egregious nature of J&J’s violations.
The Dallas jury found that Johnson & Johnson actively concealed known issues with the Pinnacle artificial hip. The company knew that there would be failures with the device and marketed it anyway, warning neither doctors nor their patients of the risks associated with the hardware being implanted in their bodies.
Of course, once something is surgically implanted and fails, the only remedy is to go back in and get it out. The end result is more surgery, more recovery, and a patient that is now left worse off than they might have been without the initial surgery.
The history of the Pinnacle hip replacement lawsuit is as extensive as the number of cases brought against Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit; the hip’s manufacturer. Indications of problems with the Pinnacle hip replacement date back as far as 2010 when 93,000 of the units were recalled. Seeing a storm on the horizon, Johnson & Johnson allocated some $3 billion to deal with the fallout, but that would only be the beginning.
Case after case expanded the recall to another implant in DePuy’s line with evidence suggesting that one out of every eight units would eventually fail within just five years of implantation.
DePuy would eventually completely exit the hip manufacturing business, but not before some 10,000 lawsuits had been filed against the company.
Three months into 2016; six years after the initial indications of problems, and the storm over DePuy hip implants continues to rage. And, while financial punitive action against the company might bring a certain level of comfort to victims and their families, one has to wonder why the same system that limits those financial rewards doesn’t also threaten the freedom of those that knowingly harmed them.