In the first loss that pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J & J) has faced with their Pinnacle line of artificial hips, a jury in Dallas has ordered the company to pay $502 million in damages to five patients who forged a lawsuit against the company when the devices failed, leaving them with severe pain and facing more surgery because of hip implant failure.
In a courtroom in Dallas, a jury decided that the Pinnacle artificial hips sold by J & J’s DuPuy unit were faulty and, furthermore, they determined that officials with the company were familiar with the risks involved yet failed to warn doctors and patients of the potential consequences.
The five patients who filed suit were awarded $142 million in actual damages and $306 million in punitive damages, reports a breaking news article in Bloomberg Business.
Mark Lanier, an attorney for the plaintiffs, stated after the trial: “The defendants have tried six different arguments against people with failed implants. One worked, [they claimed] that the surgeon put it in wrong. The other five haven’t worked and won’t, because it is a defective product.”
J & J had previously enjoyed a win at an earlier trial involving the Pinnacle product and a single plaintiff, so they were no doubt surprised about this most recent outcome. “The grounds for appeal are strong and the punitive damages will be reduced to around $10 million subject to the Texas statutory cap,” John Beisner, a lawyer for J & J, said by e-mail.
It is reported that J & J and DuPuy face about 8,000 lawsuits associated with Pinnacle artificial hips. The recent win occurred at only the 2nd trial involving the faulty products. The metal-on-metal version of the hip in question is no longer sold by Johnson & Johnson – they ceased carrying it in 2013 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tightened up regulations dealing with the manufacture of artificial hips.
However, it’s not the first time the artificial hip business has been a problem for the folks at J & J. The company, based in New Jersey, has already put out $2.5 billion to cover settlements from claims made against another line of artificial hips they once sold, known as ASRs.
The company reported that more than 10 percent of those particular devices failed within 5 years and wound up recalling about 93,000 of those hip implants.
Plaintiffs Margaret Aoki, Jay Christopher, Donald Greer, Richard Klusmann and Robert Peterson, two of whom are medical professionals, claim that problems with their Pinnacle hips included leaking cobalt and chromium material that made its way into their bloodstreams.
This led to the failure of the hips and the need to surgically remove them. Attorneys say officials knew such injuries were possible, maybe even probably, but went ahead with sales, which eventually amounted to billions of dollars.
Still, the company denies any wrongdoing. DePuy spokeswoman, Mindy TIndley, said that they “acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing” of the devices. “The product is backed by a strong record of safety and effectiveness in reducing pain and restoring mobility for patients,” she explained in an e-mailed statement.
The situation reminds many of similar scenarios with companies who happily promoted their asbestos-containing products throughout much of the 20th century and sold them to various companies worldwide, despite being aware of the obvious dangers caused by the material and the thousands of diagnoses of respiratory ailments (including mesothelioma cancer) made among those who worked closely with asbestos. Companies in that industry continue to face thousands of lawsuits each year.