The total amount awarded to patients implanted with metal-on-metal hip implants from Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopedic unit grew by over a quarter of a billion dollars this month in the latest Dallas jury verdict. This represents the corporation’s third significant loss in a matter that has close to 10,000 additional plaintiffs waiting for their own days in court.
For those that have been following these cases, this latest DePuy hip implant decision reads very similarly to the others. The plaintiffs allege that DePuy falsely represented the safety of its Pinnacle hip implant devices to doctors after rushing the product to market. Given the device’s metal-on-metal connections, doctors were obviously concerned. However, DePuy representatives repeatedly gave assurances that any issues regarding the metal-on-metal nature of the device had been resolved and that there was little risk from metal shavings breaking free and leading to any ill effects in patients’ bodies.
2016 would see massive penalties for DePuy as the second largest jury award of the year would be decided in favor of five plaintiffs that brought suit against the company. A jury in a Dallas federal courtroom awarded $142 million in damages and another $360 million punitively to the patients for injuries and harm sustained from their DePuy hip implants. A Texas law that limits how much can be awarded punitively against a company would later lead to significant cuts being made to that amount, but the message was clear – juries believed that DePuy wasn’t acting in the best interest of patients and they were going to punish the company for that.
The latest case has stunning similarities. The plaintiffs’ attorney tells of a “grand seduction” being played against surgeons convincing them that DePuy had “solved the metal-on-metal problem.” And in the end – just as in the past – the jury agreed. They found that DePuy was using “intentional misrepresentations” when discussing their hip implants and engaging in “deceptive business practices” when marketing them.
DePuy may be starting to feel the heat building around them. In a stunning development earlier this month, allegations of witness tampering surfaced against the company when a surgeon serving as an expert witness in the matter stated in a sworn affidavit that a DePuy sales representative appeared to threaten his practice as a result of his involvement in the case. That matter has been turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.