Product News and Recalls

Texas Law Leads to Drop in Hip Implant Award

depuy hip implant award slashed on Texas lawA $500 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy hip implant unit was slashed by nearly $350 million, based primarily on a Texas statute that limits amounts that can be recovered in punitive damages.

Earlier this year, five plaintiffs were awarded half a billion dollars for complications stemming from the use of the Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant. $140 million was compensatory while $360 million was awarded as punitive damages. The trial took two months to complete.

While the pharmaceutical giant is, of course, pleased by the result, it did lose an attempt to force an entirely new trial. Arguing that the jury had been tainted by “unfair” evidence, lawyers for the corporation sought to start the entire process over again.

Some 8,400 lawsuits have been filed across the country against Johnson & Johnson and seek damages for what plaintiffs allege was a reckless disregard for their well-being. $2.5 billion was paid out in 2013 alone; the same year that DePuy stopped selling the Pinnacle system.

However, that $2.5 billion was not to settle claims regarding Pinnacle. Another DePuy hip implant system – the ASR – had been recalled in 2010.

Having lost the attempt to have the case thrown out and restarted, Johnson & Johnson’s hopes now lie with overturning the verdict on appeal. Even after 2010’s recall and the torrent of lawsuits over Pinnacle, J&J has maintained that they did nothing wrong.

The first DePuy hip implant trial seemed to support that claim. The case’s single plaintiff was unable to prove Johnson & Johnson’s liability, and the company was exonerated at the end of the trial.

Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy hip implant unit has a long and sordid history. Reaching back for years, accusations of improper design, marketing, and overall neglect have plagued the company seemingly since the device’s inception. The problem largely stems from the its metal-on-metal design. As friction increases between the implant’s metal components, shavings have been found to break off. The result, at a minimum, is agonizing pain combined with the high likelihood of a series of revision surgeries.

As the lawsuits stack up amid claims of corruption, and that DePuy knew that there were issues with their hip replacement systems but continued to market them anyway, it’s worth noting that company CEO Alex Gorsky took home a 48% pay raise in 2014.