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Damages Reduced in $500 Million Pinnacle Hip Verdict

Johnson & JohnsonDamages in a Pinnacle hip implant lawsuit have been reduced in accordance with state law but the verdict remains the same, a judge overseeing coordination of Pinnacle hip injury lawsuits has determined. The original jury award of $500 million was reduced to $151 million for the five plaintiffs that were placed together in a single lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, the judge assigned to oversee the multidistrict litigation or MDL, determined the damages must be reduced to comply with Texas law regarding limits on punitive damages. However, Judge Kinkeade did not overturn the verdict, nor did he allow the defendants, DePuy Orthopedics and Johnson & Johnson to have a new trial. Johnson & Johnson has appealed the verdict and has asked for the expedition of their appeal as well as delay on further trials until this appeal has been decided.

Plaintiffs allege metal poisoning, other complications

The plaintiffs in this particular hip replacement lawsuit all alleged that defects in the DePuy Pinnacle implant led to metal poisoning and other complications after their hip implant surgery. Metal poisoning, also known as metallosis, can lead to early implant failure and the need for revision surgery to remove the faulty implant and replace it with a new device. The jury agreed with their claims, as well as the assertion that Johnson & Johnson failed to provide proper warning of the potential problems to physicians and patients.

The jury originally awarded the plaintiffs $140 million in compensatory damages and another $360 million in punitive damages. However, state law restricts the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in these cases, so Judge Kinkeade was forced to reduce that amount to bring the total to $151 million. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they were disappointed in the reduction of damages, but remained satisfied with the judge’s other rulings in the case.

This is just the second lawsuit to go to trial in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving Pinnacle hip lawsuits against DePuy Orthopedics and Johnson & Johnson. The MDL was formed in May 2011 to expedite early trial proceedings for a growing number of cases with similar statements of fact. Currently, dozens of lawsuits are still pending in this MDL, filed by plaintiffs that have experienced similar injuries. Some have needed revision surgery just a few short years after their initial hip replacement surgery.

In addition to rejecting the request for a new trial, Judge Kinkeade chose not to stay future bellwether trials until the appeal on this trial was decided. The district judge noted in his decision that numerous MDLs have continued despite the fact that one jury decision was appealed by the defendant. The third bellwether trial is scheduled to begin in September of this year. With the current decision by the judge, it appears that trial will go on as scheduled.

First Pinnacle hip bellwether case decided in favor of defendant

The first bellwether trial involving DePuy Pinnacle hips was heard by a jury in 2014. In that case, the jury determined the complications the plaintiff suffered were due to surgeon error. The second trial, involving five plaintiffs, was decided in favor of the plaintiffs. The third trial will begin in just a few short months.

Metal-on-metal hip implant systems like the Pinnacle hip were originally touted by their manufacturers as a more durable option in implant systems. However, patients that have received these systems have reported serious complications, including pain, noisy joints and early implant failure. Metal poisoning, as a result of metal components fretting against one another, has also been reported in many patients.

In April 2015, the FDA determined that metal-on-metal hip implants had a higher risk of failure and recommended regular metal testing on patients that had these types of hip implants. In the meantime, some patients that have suffered injuries from these types of implants have filed lawsuits, claiming the manufacturers of the implants failed to provide proper warning about the risks associated with these devices.

  1. U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas, MDL 3:11-md-02244,
  2. Bloomberg, J&J Ordered to Pay $502 Million Over Pinnacle Hip Failures,
  3. Reuters, U.S. Judge Cuts $500 Million Verdict Over J&J Hip Implants,
  4. FDA, Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants,