“You got to know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.”
It’s pretty obvious that no one at Johnson & Johnson knows the words to Kenny Rodgers’ timeless advice-giving anthem “The Gambler.” If they did, they might have considered that pressing their defense of the Pinnacle hip replacement implant may lead them to another loss. In this case, that loss is over $1 billion.
What is perhaps even more exceptional about this verdict, however, is that $1 billion of it is punitive. It is the third-largest jury award of 2016 and just $30 million of it is for actual damages suffered by the six plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit against the manufacturing giant. The remaining billion dollars was awarded simply as punishment.
“The jury is telling J&J that they better settle these cases soon.” Those are the words of one attorney who represented the plaintiffs in this case. “All they are doing by trying more of these cases is driving up their costs and driving the company’s reputation into the mud.”
The assessment seems to be an accurate one in light of this latest result. J&J stopped selling the Pinnacle system in 2013 and doesn’t stand to make any more money from the device. And rather than settle the (currently) over 9,000 Pinnacle lawsuits currently awaiting trial, the company has gone to trial in each case so far via a consolidation vehicle known as a multidistrict litigation.
Admittedly, Johnson & Johnson came out of the gate with some momentum to its defense. The end of 2014 saw the first Pinnacle hip lawsuit result in a decision for the defendant. The eight-week trial resulted in three days of jury deliberation before returning their decision that found no fault for Johnson & Johnson and no compensation for the plaintiff.
Since then, however, it’s been a rough road for J&J. A case brought in Texas earlier this year saw $502 million awarded to five Pinnacle patients. $142 million was for damages while $306 million was awarded punitively. Texas law, however, caps the punitive award at just $10 million. Still, the jury’s message was clear: Johnson & Johnson caused harm and there was a price that needed to be paid.
To this day, according to Bloomberg, six of the seven largest verdicts over defective product lawsuits in the United States in 2016 have been against various units of Johnson & Johnson. Granted, the corporation is a large one whose companies are involved in many different aspects of our households, medications, and overall health and well-being.
But when your implants are thought to be failing, your talc powder may be causing ovarian cancer, and you’re losing billion dollar verdicts simply as punishment for your actions, how clear does a message need to be before you realize that something must change?