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Simmons Hanly Conroy Helps Secure $247 Million Verdict in J&J Hip Implant Trial

Posted on: November 17, 2017 | by: Consumer Safety Law December 1, 2017


A Texas federal jury on Thursday ordered Johnson & Johnson and medical device subsidiary DePuy to pay $247 million to six plaintiffs after finding injurious defects in the companies’ Ultamet® Metal-on-Metal artificial hips. Following implants of the faulty replacement hip systems, the New York plaintiffs required revision surgeries to correct severe side effects.

The metal-on-metal design, which the companies aggressively marketed as longer lasting than ceramic or plastic implants with a 99 percent success rate, was found to lack the quality Johnson & Johnson and DePuy guaranteed. According to the bellwether hip trial, the product instead had a success rate of 53 percent and turned plaintiff’s hips into “ticking time bombs.”

Patients and Doctors Misled to Believe Ultamet Safe

After less than two days of deliberation, the unanimous jury found Johnson & Johnson and DePuy liable for a series of negligent design and manufacturing defects. They also highlighted the companies’ deceptive, fraudulent and malicious business practices, such as intentionally misrepresenting the product to surgeons and concealing its risks from plaintiffs, which the companies knew about. Finally, they also found Johnson & Johnson liable for aiding and abetting with DePuy to fraudulently market and sell the devices.

“The evidence presented in the testimony against J&J told the deeper story of how the science was manipulated in order to sell the product and then, despite it being a bad device, millions of dollars in payments were given to surgeon consultants to use and recommend the product,” said Jayne Conroy, an attorney and shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy who represented the plaintiffs. She then added that physicians had also forged clinical testing results in favor of the manufacturers in several cases.

As a result of this deception, the six plaintiffs had suffered a variety of serious injuries including intense pain, loss of hip mobility, a permanent limp and permanent muscle loss. They alleged Johnson & Johnson had rushed the product to market without adequate testing or concern for the consequences to capture greater market share.

The combined $247 million verdict included $90 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and $78 million in punitive damages against DePuy. The six plaintiffs were awarded more than $77 million in past and future medical expenses and pain and suffering, and four of the plaintiffs’ spouses were compensated loss of consortium damages of $1.7 million.

How Did the Product Cause So Much Damage?

DePuy discontinued Ultamet after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tightened its artificial hip regulations in 2013. The FDA has now classed metal-on-metal hip implants Class III (high risk) devices. Nevertheless, during the trial, the company defended the metal-on-metal design as viable, backed by a strong record of clinical data. The product was even developed, they said, to solve the bone degradation problem it caused.

Instead, metal debris had broken away from the implant and entered the patients’ bloodstreams, destroying tissue and bones. The lawsuit found that Johnson & Johnson and DePuy failed to warn of these side effects, which could have been avoided with a safer design, and that their assertions were not backed up by science. Plaintiffs argued the companies’ only focus was putting profits ahead of people.

This was the third consecutive bellwether hip trial resulting in a nine-figure victory. A 2016 lawsuit awarded five Texas plaintiffs $500 million, later cut to $150 million. Another awarded six California plaintiffs $543 million in damages after reducing the amount from $1 billion.

Johnson & Johnson, parent company of one of the world’s largest manufacturers of hip replacements, said it plans to appeal. The company has so far made no plans to recall the product. But Johnson & Johnson and DePuy remain in the midst of more than 9,700 pending lawsuits in state and federal courts. Industry analysts believe the three verdicts could have significant influence on possible settlement of remaining complaints, which they estimate will cost Johnson & Johnson billions of dollars to resolve.

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