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J&J to Pay $500 Million in Pinnacle Hip Implant Case

Johnson & Johnson A jury has awarded five plaintiffs $500 million after determining Pinnacle hip devices manufactured by Johnson & Johnson were defective and the company failed to warn about potential risks associated with their devices.

This marks the second Pinnacle hip implant trial, and 8,000 other cases are still pending in federal court. Plaintiffs have been watching these proceedings with great interest for a clue as to how their own cases might be decided in the future.

Pinnacle hip lawsuit victory for plaintiffs

The trial, which took place in federal court in Dallas, involved five plaintiffs that were implanted with the Pinnacle hip system. The plaintiffs all alleged their Pinnacle hips released metal particles into their surrounding tissue and bloodstream, leading to pain and early failure of their devices. All of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit claim they had to undergo revision surgery to remove the defective implants and replace them with new hip systems within a few short years.

The plaintiffs also assert in their complaint that pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson knew of the potential risks associated with the Pinnacle systems, but continued to aggressively market their devices to the medical community and general public. The company made billions in sales of the Pinnacle hip systems, plaintiffs stated in their complaint.

An attorney for Margaret Aoki, Jay Christopher, Donald Greer, Richard Klusmann and Robert Peterson told Bloomberg Business that Johnson & Johnson and their subdivision DePuy “launched an aggressive campaign to market the metal-on-metal hips in the U.S. and across the globe.” The attorney for the plaintiffs further stated to Bloomberg that the effort included kickbacks to U.S. doctors, offering them millions to push the benefits of the devices to their patients. In the process, the companies also misled those doctors and others in the medical community about the safety of the hip devices.

The trial lasted for one full month and the jury deliberated for one week before handing down their decision. The $500 million award includes around $140 million in compensatory damages and another $360 million in punitive damages. However, under Texas law, it is likely the punitive damages will be reduced, possibly to as little as $10 million.

To date, only one other lawsuit involving the Pinnacle hip system has gone to trial. That case ended in a decision favoring the defendant. There are another 8,000 DePuy hip replacement lawsuits still pending against Johnson & Johnson. Most of those have been coordinated into multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, for the purpose of streamlining early trial proceedings and making the entire process more convenient for all parties involved.

Risks of metal-on-metal hip implants

Metal-on-metal implants, like the DePuy Pinnacle system, were highly touted when they first came on the market as a more durable alternative for younger, more active hip replacement patients. Unfortunately, some of the patients that have received these implants have suffered from serious complications including severe pain, reduced mobility and the need for revision surgery. In many cases, metal particles have fretted off the joint, leading to a medical condition known as metallosis or metal poisoning.

Metallosis can lead to severe pain in the new hip joint as well as complete failure of the joint. Because the metal particles can also get into the area surrounding the joint, it can also lead to tissue death and bone damage.

Patients who have been injured by these hip implants have filed lawsuits against DePuy and Johnson & Johnson, claiming the defendants failed to provide proper warning about the risks associated with these products.

  1. Bloomberg, J&J Ordered to Pay $502 Million over Pinnacle Hip Failures,
  2. Fortune, Johnson & Johnson to Pay $500 Million to Five Plaintiffs in Hip Implant Case,
  3. FDA, Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants: FDA Safety Communication,
  4. U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, MDL Cases,