Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $247 million to half a dozen patients who claimed the company hid defects in its Pinnacle artificial hips, its third big-dollar loss over the products.
Officials of the company’s DePuy unit, which makes the hips, knew the devices were defective but failed to properly warn doctors and patients about the risk they would prematurely fail, a Dallas jury ruled Thursday. The panel awarded a total of $79 million in actual damages and $168 million in punitive damages to a group of six New York residents whose hips had to be surgically removed.
The number of lawsuits accusing J&J and DePuy of mishandling the metal-on-metal hips has grown by more than 13 percent over the past year, to 9,900, according to a regulatory filing. J&J stopped selling the devices in 2013 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration toughened artificial-hip regulations.
“These companies’ behaviors were so reprehensive that it demands repeated punishment,” Mark Lanier, a lawyer for the hip recipients, said after the verdict. Lanier won the previous two verdicts against J&J and DePuy.
J&J officials said Thursday in an emailed statement they acted “appropriately and responsibly” in the development and marketing of the Pinnacle hips. “We will immediately begin the appeal process and remain committed to the long-term defense of the allegations in these lawsuits,” Stella Meirelles, a spokeswoman for DePuy, said in the release.
Johnson & Johnson won the first Pinnacle hip case to go to trial in October 2014 after a federal court jury in Dallas rejected a Montana woman’s claims that the devices were defective and gave her metal poisoning.
Another Dallas jury ordered J&J last year to pay $502 million to a group of five patients who accused the company of hiding defects in the hips. A judge cut that verdict in July to about $150 million.
Earlier this year, a third Dallas jury ordered J&J and DePuy to pay more than $1 billion to six California residents whose hips had to be removed after failing. That award was later slashed by nearly half.
The Pinnacle devices weren’t covered by New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J’s $2.5 billion settlement of claims over its ASR line of artificial hips. J&J recalled 93,000 of those implants worldwide in August 2010, saying 12 percent failed within five years.
The Pinnacle cases have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade in Dallas for pretrial information exchanges and test trials. Kinkeade agreed to combine the six cases in the most recent trial.
The six New York plaintiffs in the current case are Uriel Brazel, an 88-year-old physician; Karen Kirschner, a 67-year-old elementary school teacher; Ramon Alicea, 61, a chauffeur; Hazel Miura, 60, a housing official; Eugene Stevens, 53, a health-care aide; and Michael Stevens, 52, a financial analyst.
The hip recipients argued DePuy officials rushed the Pinnacle hips to market with little testing and misled doctors about the device’s safety profile, assuring them there was little risk of metal poisoning and tissue damage from the metal-on-metal product.
“They ran a grand seduction,” Lanier, the group’s lead lawyer, told jurors in closing arguments Nov. 14 “Surgeons were seduced into using metal-on-metal” by DePuy executives’ false assurances the company had “solved the metal-on-metal problem,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer added.
J&J’s lawyers countered that the devices failed because of routine wear-and-tear rather than a flawed design and the company properly marketed the product.
“Not a single surgeon” said they picked the Pinnacle hip “because of advertising or a brochure or any marketing,” Steven Quattlebaum, J&J’s lawyer, told jurors in his closing statement. “They had good experience with it before they implanted it in any of these patients.”
In their ruling, jurors found J&J DePuy relied on “intentional misrepresentations” about the hips’ safety profile to bolster sales and engaged in “deceptive business practices” in their marketing of the devices, according to a verdict form.
The consolidated case is In Re: DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Pinnace Hip Implant Products Liability litigation, 11-md-2244, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
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