Both sides made their case and the decision was left to the jury. That jury came back with its decision and a very powerful message. $30 million was to paid by Johnson & Johnson for damages sustained by the plaintiffs after receiving Pinnacle hip replacement implants. An additional $1 billion was to be paid in punitive damages.
That verdict was just one in a series of losses for the medical device manufacturing giant in 2016. In fact, six of the seven largest verdicts over defective product lawsuits in the United States that year were against various units of Johnson & Johnson. Months prior, another trial in Texas invovling five other Pinnacle patients resulted in a $502 million award; $306 million of it being awarded punitively.
Company lawyers immediately called the billion-dollar verdict unfair and stated their plans for an appeal. They also asked the judge in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Kinkeade, to either reduce or throw out the jury’s verdict.
Citing “constitutional considerations” that place limits on how much plaintiffs are able to recover punitively in lawsuits such as the Pinnacle trial, Judge Kinkeade did exactly that and effectively cut the punitive award in half. The judge, however, did not change the jury’s actual verdict. This is to say that the finding that Johnson & Johnson Pinnacle hip implants are defective in their design still stands. The verdict indicates the company also failed to warn the public about the risks of using its implants; risks including tissue death, bone erosion, severe pain, infection, dislocation, and metallosis.
This is not the first time that Judge Kinkeade has cut a jury verdict. In fact, the $502 million award referenced above was cut by Judge Kinkeade to a total of $151 million, taking into account both damages and the punitive award. This reduction was made citing Texas law – the home state of the plaintiffs involved in that trial.
Still, as bellwether trials serving as the opening salvo of close to 9,000 lawsuits filed over defects, pain, and revision surgeries suffered by those implanted with Johnson & Johnson hip implants, prospects do not appear to bode well for the company. One has to wonder what is keeping America’s largest medical device manufacturer from offering settlement terms to those injured by a product with a laundry list of virtually indisputable flaws.