One of the first DePuy hip replacement lawsuits to be heard has been concluded with the jury ruling in favor of the plaintiff. DePuy Orthopaedics, a unit of Johnson & Johnson that produces various medical devices, including hip replacements, now has to pay an award of $8.3 million to one plaintiff, even though the company hasn’t been assessed a possible $179 million in punitive damages. The lawsuit in California is expected to be just the beginning of legal troubles for Johnson & Johnson, the biggest manufacturer of health products in the world. A large amount of cases involving DePuy hip replacement products is still waiting to be heard and the recent judgment in California may have a strong impact on how other cases will proceed.
Back in August 2010, Johnson & Johnson has recalled 93,000 hip implants. The company stated that 12 percent of the medical devices failed less than five years after being implanted. But the actual number of defective hip replacements is probably much higher than what the company reported. In 2012, it has been demonstrated that 44 percent of DePuy hip replacements ended up failing within seven years.
Ever since problems with the hip replacements began attracting attention, followed by a product recall, lawsuits related to DePuy’s products have grown as well. The company is now facing around 10,000 lawsuits from patients who were injured as a result of defective medical devices sold by DePuy.
The product at the center of these lawsuits is the DePuy ASR, a new type of hip implant that uses only metal components, which the manufacturers promoted as a next generation hip replacement that lasts longer and is more comfortable for patients. Besides the DePuy ASR, there are many other all-metal hip implants that have been installed on patients in the last few years. But this new type of implant has shown serious problems, such as high rates of premature failure and the need for patients to have corrective surgery to address problems with the implant. Another issue with all-metal implants is that metallic components that rub against each other can cause tiny metallic particles to be shed, which can damage the surrounding tissue and cause a medical condition known as metallosis if these particles reach the bloodstream.
The recent trial in California lasted five weeks and the jury deliberated for 6 days. After deliberations, the jury’s opinion was that the DePuy ASR hip implant was a defective product and that the manufacturer showed negligence. The jury, however, denied to award punitive damages, as the plaintiff in the case was suffering from other medical problems, such as diabetes, vascular disease and heart disease that may have contributed to his health problems. But in other lawsuits that are still pending, many patients are younger and healthier, which could make proving that the DePuy hip implant is the cause of their health troubles much easier.
Meanwhile, DePuy Orthopaedics and Johnson & Johnson have appealed the Los Angeles Superior Court verdict. A DePuy representative went on to state that the company believes the hip implant in question was designed properly and that the company took responsible actions concerning the product.