On November 16th, a federal jury in Dallas, TX told Johnson & Johnson and their subsidiary DePuy that they need to pay six patients a total of $247 million due to hip implants that turned out to be defective.
The verdict came as a result of finding that the hip implants used a metal to metal design, which was directly linked to patient injuries. Moreover, the companies who designed the hip replacements failed to warn the patients about the possible risks involved in the surgery.
Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the large verdict, however appeals on complex cases such as this one could take years to resolve. Moreover, while a jury verdict cannot be directly overturned, appeals can be effective when they call into question evidentiary rulings by the court, instructions to the jury, and other issues such as whether the jurors failed to be impartial.
Doctors now know that metal hip replacements can come with a variety of side effects. Side effects can include metal debris being found in the body, cobalt toxicity, bone erosion, tissue death, bursitis, and radicular pain. Despite these potential side effects, metal hip implants were used due to the claim that they would last longer than other materials typically used in these procedures, such as plastic or ceramic.
What is more, having to take out metal hip replacement parts is a very painful process which can result in the patient experiencing a sustained interruption in their lives.
The six plaintiffs involved in this case experienced bone erosion and tissue death due to the metal hip replacement parts which were designed defectively.
Over, it appears that this verdict is only the beginning. There are at least 9,700 other lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson throughout the country for similar conditions caused by their metal hip implants.
DePuy has stated that there is strong research that supports the metal-on-metal hip implants, however, the scientific merits of these devices was debated in court by expert witnesses on both sides. To prove that the design of the metal hip implants were defective, expert testimony was required to show that there is a safer alternative design. This will typically call for medical and engineering experts.
Plaintiff counsel has been using test cases to see just how vulnerable DePuy and Johnson & Johnson will be to litigation involving their metal-on-metal hip implants. DePuy won the first trial case, but have lost in later cases.
“This nine-week trial was a disservice to everyone involved because the verdict will do nothing to advance the ultimate resolution of this six-year old litigation,” said the defendants’ attorney following the plaintiff verdict in the most recent case.
The USDA changed its artificial hip regulations in 2013, leading to a cessation in the use of metal-on-metal hip implants. The regulations came after a 2012 Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Devices Advisory Panel meeting where the panel reviewed failure rates, metal ion testing, complications, risk factors, and post-surgical care.
Hip replacement surgery involves the removal of a hip joint with arthritis and replacing it with an artificial joint hip replacement surgery. The procedure is usually done when more conservative treatment has failed. Hip replacements can also become necessary in the course of slip and fall accidents, or as the result of degenerative changes that occur with age.
The plaintiffs should not count themselves lucky yet: many of these large juries verdicts have been reduced by courts after they have been rendered to the jury due to them being excessive in nature. It would not be surprising that a court would lower a jury verdict of $247 million.
It should be no shock that Plaintiff’s attorneys are still seeking clients to go after Johnson & Johnson and are looking for patients who have received these metal hip implants and are experiencing hip pain, difficulty standing, loss of mobility, or have had to undergo a subsequent hip replacement surgery.
Patients experiencing problems with these type of hip implants can require periodic injections and pain management due to difficulties caused by the metal-on-metal devices. This allows the plaintiffs to seek pain and suffering in addition to large medical bills as damages in their cases.
We will have to wait and see if the court allows the $247 million verdict stand or if the case will be reversed on appeal. Either way, this is only one verdict of many to come against Johnson & Johnson and DePuy. Lawyers advising clients who make artificial joint replacements or any other type of prosthetic device should make sure to review all studies for possible negative side effects of their products.