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First DePuy Pinnacle Hip Trial Underway in Texas

lawyer and jurorsThe first DePuy Pinnacle hip trial is now underway in Texas, offering a sneak peek into how juries might respond to hundreds of other lawsuits involving the DePuy Pinnacle hip in the future.

This bellwether is the first of more than 6,000 complaints currently pending in federal court in Texas, with plaintiffs alleging the DePuy hip replacements led to pain, reduced mobility and metal poisoning.

Pinnacle hip metallosis alleged

Kathleen Herlihy-Paoli, the plaintiff in this initial trial, claims she underwent total hip arthroplasty in both hips in 2009. During those procedures, the plaintiff receive DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip systems. Shortly after her surgeries, Herlihy-Paoli began to experience severe pain in both of her hip joints. Upon examination, it was found that chromium and cobalt levels in her bloodstream were 85 times higher than normal.

Those elevated levels in Herlihy-Paolis’ bloodstream led to a serious infection that required the removal of both the Pinnacle hip systems in 2011. In her complaint, the plaintiff asserts that she was unaware of the potential risks associated with the Pinnacle system, including the possibility of infection stemming from metal exposure, early failure of the device and the need for revision surgery within a few short years after her initial procedure.

In fact, Herlihy-Paoli’s attorney told the jury that that Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit assured both surgeons and patients that the devices worked “99.9 percent of the time.”

J & J counters plaintiff’s claims

Representatives of Johnson & Johnson have countered Herlihy-Paoli’s accusations, saying the problems the plaintiff experienced were due to the position of her hips and not defects in the implants themselves. DePuy’s former president and current chairman of DePuy’s Synthes’ Orthopedic Division, Andrew Ekdahl, denied claims that company executives covered up concerns voiced about the Pinnacle hip systems, while continuing to market the devices as safe and effective. Officials have also stated the product was thoroughly tested and closely monitored before and during its time on the market.

History of the Pinnacle hip system

The Pinnacle hip system was first introduced to the U.S. market by DePuy in 2005, when it was touted as a durable implant option for younger, more active patients. However, the device wasn’t on the market for long before concerning reports of serious complications and early implant failures began alarming patients and physicians alike. The metal-on-metal design, which was intended to increase durability of the device, instead released metal particles into surrounding tissue and the bloodstream, leading to tissue death, bone damage and device failure.

The Pinnacle problems followed on the heels of another problem device for DePuy and J & J; the ASR hip implant systems. In 2010, J & J recalled more than 93,000 ASR devices, citing early failure rates as the reason for the recall. Although the Pinnacle system has never been recalled by the company, the device went off the market in August 2013 when the FDA required J & J to submit a modified version of the system.

In the meantime, injured patients have been filing DePuy hip lawsuits, claiming the defendant failed to provide proper warning about potential risks associated with those devices. Currently, more than 6,000 lawsuits are awaiting DePuy Pinnacle hip trials in coordinated proceeding in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Multidistrict litigation was established in this court for lawsuits involving Pinnacle hip problems in May 2011 to make early trial proceedings more efficient and convenient for a growing number of plaintiffs.

Last year, J & J spent more than $2.5 billion to settle complaints involving their ASR hip system. This year, all eyes will be on this initial DePuy Pinnacle lawsuit to see if settlement negotiations might be in the future for the company once again.

  1. Ortho Spine News, Lawyer Grills DePuy Exec Ekdahl in Pinnacle Hip Trial,

  2. Bloomberg, J & J’s Pinnacle Hips Face First Trial on Poisoned Patients,

  3. Bidness Etc., Johnson & Johnson Accused of Concealing Hip Implant Defect,

  4. Bloomberg, J & J Unit Ran Amok Marketing Pinnacle Hips, Jury Told,

  5. U.S District Court, Northern District of Texas, In Re: DePuy Orthopedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation,