Certain versions of metal-on-metal hip implants designed by DePuy Orthopaedics–a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson–were recalled in August 2010. The recall came only after many concerned advocates raised questions about the potential harm caused by the product. Since then even more information has emerged about what company officials knew of the risks of the products and their awareness of the potential harm that they could cause to unsuspecting patients.
Since the recall thousands of patients have had their own DePuy hips fail, with varying damages and often requiring risky (and costly) revision surgery. Many of those patients have since filed Depuy recall lawsuits, now totalling nearly 11,000.
Considering the total number of affected patients, and the significant number of lawsuits already filed, it will be quite some time before these matters are completely resolved. That is especially true considering more patients are still coming in as their metal-on-metal hip implants begin failing and causing them harm.
First Trial Ends
Recently, Bloomberg News reported on the end of the first trial filed against DePuy by a patient who suffered harm because of the product which ultimately had to be removed. The plaintiff, a retired prison guard, first received the implant in 2007. However, the product did not last nearly as long as expected before, among other things, metallic particles began flaking off into his bloodstream and causing him a range of medical problems. Last year the man had to undergo risky revision surgery to have the device removed.
In filing the lawsuit against the company, the plaintiff made various allegations stemming from the product’s causing of harm. The legal arguments in these matters are somewhat complex, including strict liability issues as well as claims of negligence. Ultimately, after a five week trial and about a week a deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. He was awarded about $8.3 million in compensatory damages. The breakdown was about $300,000 for medical expenses and $8 million for pain and suffering. The jury did not find actual negligence or the “fraud or malice” required for a punitive damage award.
The Next Steps
Representatives for Johnson & Johnson have already argued that they plan on appealing this ruling. An appeal requires a showing that legal errors were made. This is far different than claims that the jury made fact-finding mistakes. In other words, it is a high hurdle to meet. Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, more cases will begin hitting the courts. In fact, one is set to begin this week in Chicago.
Each of these cases may be settled separately or go to trial with various jury verdicts. The outcome in this first case does not necessarily mean that future plaintiffs can expect more or less–individual assessments will be made. Yet, the finding of liability here and the ultimate size of the award is a good starting off point which may influence settlement offers or other strategic matters in regard to future DePuy litigation.
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