National law firm, Parker Waichman LLP notes that U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, the Texas federal judge who is overseeing a multidistrict litigation (MDL) over the allegedly defective DePuy Pinnacle hip prosthetics just chose seven bellwether cases for trial. This followed a Johnson & Johnson request to stay cases pending its appeal of a massive $497.6 million verdict. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. is a unit of Johnson & Johnson. The MDL is In re: DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:11-md-02244, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The cases will be prepared for trial beginning September 6, 2016; the remainder of the cases in the MDL are pending until after the trials, said Judge Kinkeade, according to a June 14, 2016 Law360 report.
Citing court documents, Parker Waichman noted that, in March 2016, a Texas jury returned the massive multi-million-dollar compensatory damage verdict in favor of the five plaintiffs whose cases were consolidated for the second bellwether. All of the plaintiffs underwent hip arthroplasty, in which a hip joint is replaced with a hip replacement device. All alleged their DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant devices failed and that the Pinnacle caused significant health problems, including bone erosion, inflammation of surrounding tissue, and metallosis (metal poisoning). The Dallas jury returned the verdict on March 17 on the second bellwether following a two-month trial and a number of days of deliberations. The jury found in favor of all of the five plaintiffs holding J&J and DePuy liable. The nearly $500 million verdict included $360 in punitive damages; $240 million of the punitive damages were assessed against J&J and DePuy is responsible for the other $120 million. The $140 million in compensatory damages will be divided among the plaintiffs based on individual injuries. Parker Waichman notes that DePuy called for numerous bifurcations (requests to divide the trial in two parts so as to render a judgment on a set of legal issues without looking at all aspects), and more than 10 requests for mistrial. All requests were denied. The plaintiffs’ legal team was also able to show that the DePuy legal team called forth a paid expert who earned over $900,000 consulting for the defendants.
In May 2016, both J&J and DePuy asked Judge Kinkeade to delay the pending September bellwether trials. The firms indicated that they plan on appealing to the Fifth Circuit Court over various issues the firms claim will broadly effect the way in which the remainder of cases are tried, according to Law 360, citing court documents. “Metal hip devices have been associated with increased and premature failure rates, as well as an array of alleged, adverse medical reactions,” said Matthew J. McCauley, Senior Litigation Counsel at Parker Waichman. “Parker Waichman clients have also alleged that debris from chromium and cobalt hip devices have led to tissue death and increased blood metal ion levels,” he added. Regulators have advised metal ion testing in some patients to determine whether the implant has failed, notes Parker Waichman.
J&J has already faced litigation over its metal-on-metal ASR hip, which was recalled in August 2010. Many lawsuits point out that metal were not clinically tested before they were approved. In August 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sought to change this by requiring device makers to go through a stricter approval process to ensure that safe metal-on-metal hips were released to the market; Johnson & Johnson followed by halting sales of the metal-on-metal version of the Pinnacle device. In the United States, device makers may seek FDA clearance through a 510(k) application if that device is substantially similar to a device that has already been approved. Under this speedier clearance route, device makers are only required to file paperwork with the FDA and pay a fee, Parker Waichman points out.
“The firm has long pointed out that not every medical device is safety tested prior to market release. This is a well-known issue in the system and has given rise to increased controversy, especially regarding metal-on-metal hips,” said Mr. McCauley.
For further information regarding premature failure of a metal hip device, or other health problems associated with metal hip implants, please contact the firm at its Defective Hip Implant page at yourlawyer.com. Free case evaluations are also available by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).
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