Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $8M in First Hip Implant Verdict
DePuy Orthopaedics, a Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) company, was ordered to pay Loren Kransky $8.3 million in a lawsuit that accused the company of knowingly marketing a faulty hip replacement, the ASR XL. The award was $338,000 for medical costs and $8 million for pain and suffering. The trial began in January, and the company faces thousands more suits similar to Kransky’s in the coming months.
The Los Angeles, Calif., jury agreed that the metal-on-metal implant was defectively designed, depositing metal fragments in the body tissue causing metal poisoning and other health problems. However, jurors decided not to levy any punitive damages, despite pretrial evidence that DePuy had internal statistics that predicted a 37 percent failure of the implant within 4.6 years. New Brunswick, N.J.-based JNJ stopped producing the device in 2009 and recalled 93,000 units the next year.
Johnson & Johnson has reserved $1 billion in preparation for the almost 11,000 similar cases being brought against the company.
The plaintiff’s attorney, Doug Saeltzer, was optimistic about the other cases, and said, “The message is that these cases are valid, that the injuries are real and severe, and Johnson & Johnson and DePuy have to pay significant money for their mistakes.”
“We believe ASR XL was properly designed, and that DePuy’s actions concerning the product were appropriate and responsible,” DePuy spokeswoman Lorie Gawreluk said. “We plan to appeal the jury’s decision on design defect pending the outcome of post-trial motions. We believe we have a number of valid grounds for appeal, notably that the court didn’t let the company tell the jury about the [U.S.] Food and Drug Administration’s review and clearance of the device.”
Defense attorneys denied Kransky’s claim, arguing he had a host of pre-existing health ailments and the hip implant didn’t make him worse. The Legal Examiner said that this strategy of diminishing the value of the case by pointing to Kransky’s health “will not be available to JNJ in all future cases,” as many otherwise healthy people—including young people who required a hip replacement following trauma or sports injury—have had their ASR implants removed.
The next trial has already started in Illinois State Court in Chicago. “DePuy will defend itself and the distributor Premier Orthopaedic Sales Inc. at trial,” Gawreluk told Orthopedic Design & Technology. “The company believes the evidence will show ASR XL was properly designed; the product was thoroughly and appropriately reviewed and cleared by the FDA; the plaintiff’s physician was properly informed of the product’s known risks; and DePuy’s actions concerning the product were appropriate and responsible.”