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Jury Awards $502 Million to DePuy Pinnacle Hip Plaintiffs

scales and gavel

On March 17, a Dallas, Texas jury ordered Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy subsidiary to pay $502 million to five plaintiffs who claim to have been injured by its DePuy Pinnacle hip implants. After a two-month trial, jurors determined the metal-on-metal system was defectively designed and found that the manufacturers didn’t properly warn patients and the medical community of the risks associated with the devices.

The jury awarded the long-suffering plaintiffs $142 million in actual damages and $360 million in punitive damages, after hip failure forced each of them — Jay Christopher, Margaret Aoki, Richard Klusmann, Robert Peterson and Donald Greer — to have the device surgically removed.

The loss is a first for the Pinnacle hip device, but it may not be the last, as over 8,000 other cases are currently pending in federal court. In a previous Pinnacle hip trial, J&J received a favorable verdict due to an argument that the surgeon improperly implanted the device in the patient and while the argument was used again, it didn’t work this time.

Plaintiffs receive second-largest verdict of 2016

The $502 million award is the second-largest this year in the U.S., according to Bloomberg. So far, the most substantial verdict of 2016 is a $625.5 patent-infringement judgement against apple, awarded to Virnetx Holding Corp.

In an emailed statement, DePuy Spokeswoman Mindy Tinsley defended the company, saying it “acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing” of the Pinnacle hip devices. “The product is backed by a strong record of safety and effectiveness in reducing pain and restoring mobility for patients,” Tinsley said.

A spokeswoman for J&J said the company plans to appeal the verdict.

Even if an appeals court doesn’t reverse the jury’s decision, the size of the award could be reduced significantly. Texas law governs the amount of punitive damages that plaintiffs can receive and the $360 million sum may be viewed as excessive.

Pinnacle hip multidistrict litigation

In total, more than 8,000 Pinnacle hip cases are pending under multidistrict litigation in Dallas, Texas, under the direction of U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade. DePuy hip lawsuits involving Pinnacle devices were consolidated to avoid conflicting pretrial rulings, conserve resources and gauge jury reaction to similar allegations. If a settlement is not reached, each case will be remanded back to the court it was originally filed in for a separate trial.

Due to the similar nature of the cases brought by the five plaintiffs awarded the judgement, Judge Kinkeade allowed them to have a joint trial. Each person claimed their DePuy Pinnacle hip allowed chromium and cobalt particles to enter their bloodstream, causing a host of complications. The plaintiffs accuse J&J of knowing about the defective nature of the metal-on-metal implant, but keeping it on the market to generate sales.

In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strengthened its regulations for hip implants and J&J took the Pinnacle device off the market. Prior to this, approximately 170,000 patients received this metal-on-metal implant, so many more lawsuits may still be filed.

  1. Reuters, Johnson & Johnson Hit with $500 Mln Verdict in Trial Over Hip Implants

  2. U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, MDL 2244 MDL

  3. Bloomberg, J&J Ordered to Pay $502 Million Over Pinnacle Hip Failures

  4. Reuters, Johnson & Johnson hit with $500 million verdict in hip implant trial