Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest maker of health-care products, has agreed to settle the bulk of consumers’ lawsuits alleging it sold defective artificial hips and misled patients about their dangers, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
“The parties have reached an agreement that hopefully will resolve most, if not all, of the litigation,” said attorney Mark Lanier, one of the leaders of the consolidated 10,000-suit litigation against J&J and its DePuy unit, maker of Pinnacle hip-replacement devices. He declined to provide details of the settlement.
After the deal was disclosed, a federal jury in Dallas that had been hearing testimony in damage claims brought by five Pinnacle hip recipients was dismissed Monday, Lanier said. Court officials confirmed the trial had ended and the jury was released. The settlement comes two weeks after J&J agreed to pay $120 million to resolve claims by state attorneys general of deceptive marketing in the metal-on-metal version of its Pinnacle inserts and nearly a month after Bloomberg News reported the manufacturer might be willing to pay more than $400 million to settle 3,300 hip cases. Mindy Tinsley, a DePuy spokeswoman, said Monday the company wouldn’t comment on a global Pinnacle settlement. Lanier said the plaintiffs had “no further comment.”
In the earlier settlement, J&J agreed to pay an average of about $125,000 per case to resolve about a third of pending Pinnacle-hip suits, people familiar with the deal said. That settlement involved 20 law firm’s cases, according to court filings.
It’s unclear if the settlement Monday would cover all remaining hip suits or just certain lawyers’ case inventories. Lanier, for example, has 450 hip clients, according to court filings.
Hip patients have been suing J&J and DePuy since 2010, alleging the devices failed prematurely or gave them metal poisoning. J&J took the metal-on-metal version of Pinnacle off the market in 2013.
Consumers, along with state attorneys general, accused the companies of misleading them about how long the devices would last. Both groups alleged DePuy officials marketed the devices as having a five-year survival rate of more than 90 percent, when European health regulators found the rates were around 5 percent.
Over the past two years, Dallas juries have ordered the company to pay a total of at least $1.7 billion in damages over hip claims. Several verdicts have been thrown out on appeal or reduced by a judge, including a $1 billion award to hip recipients that was slashed by more than half.
The Pinnacle suits were consolidated before U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade in Dallas for pre-trial information exchanges and test trials. J&J won the first case and then lost the next two, one of which featured the $1 billion verdict.
The Pinnacle devices weren’t covered by New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J’s more than $3 billion 2013 settlement covering its ASR line of artificial hips. In 2010 J&J recalled 93,000 of those implants worldwide, saying 12 percent failed within five years. With legal fees, the cost of the settlement to J&J may have climbed to more than $4 billion.
The Pinnacle case is In Re DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, 11-md-2244, U.S District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
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