Articles Posted in Depuy Pinnacle

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Artificial hip removed as part of revision surgery

If you have been the victim of a failed medical device like a metal-on-metal artificial hip, you may not ever think about preserving evidence. But it is essential to your product liability case. In this post I want to give you some tips about preserving medical device components that have been removed (“explanted”) from your body in a revision surgery. This information is important for all those undergoing revision surgery, but especially those of you who hope to pursue a product liability case without a lawyer.

Here is a quick illustration: You undergo hip replacement surgery in October 2009. In August 2010, you receive a letter from the manufacturer of the artificial hip stating that a recall has been issued on the medical device implanted in your body. Since the device is implanted in your body, you can’t easily turn it back in for a refund. So you monitor the situation. Ten months later, you begin to feel discomfort, and then outright pain. After a few more months you and your orthopedic surgeon decide to have the device removed in a revision surgery. In this operation, the surgeon will remove the defective parts of the artificial hip and replace them with new, non-defective parts. Those removed parts will sit on a surgical tray, and after the surgery they will end up . . . somewhere. They could be thrown out; they could be placed in a Ziploc bag and abandoned in a storage room; they could be handed over to the medical device manufacturer’s representative, who is often in the room during your surgery.

But they need to go to you.

Quite simply, before the revision surgery, the patient should take steps to ensure that he or she will be given the explanted medical device components. This usually involves careful conversations with the surgeon and the surgeon’s nurse or other staff. Unfortunately, most patients have no idea that need to take this step.

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“What did they know and when did they know it?” When something goes wrong with a medical device, this eventually becomes the key question. Unfortunately for Depuy Orthopaedics (Depuy), a lot has gone wrong with its metal-on-metal (MoM) hip implants over the past ten years. And to make matters worse, recently released documents* show Depuy knew it would have problems with its MoM hip implants decades ago.

Depuy MoM Hip Implants: An Overview

iStock-587512462-1-300x200Hip implants have been around for a long time. They can be made of various materials. Some older models use a polyethylene cup and a metal ball to create the artificial hip joint. While this combination works well, it’s not perfect. Engineers have looked for other materials to find a hip joint that can last longer with fewer adverse effects.

One attempted solution was to have both the cup and ball made out of metal, hence a metal-on-metal hip joint. However, the performance of these hip implants was even worse than joints that used polyethylene and metal. Problems with MoM hip implants included significant pain, bone loss, hip implant failure and metallosis.

As a result of these problems, thousands of lawsuits have sprung up, not just against Depuy, with its ASR and Pinnacle MoM implants, but other MoM hip implant manufacturers such as Biomet and Stryker. Many of the Depuy lawsuits have been consolidated into multi-district litigation, or MDL. A few initial bellwether trials involving the Depuy Pinnacle have resulted in massive verdicts against Depuy, which I wrote about here.

Basically, things have not been looking good for Depuy. And they just got worse.

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Depuy Pinnacle AppealNow it’s the plaintiffs’ turn. The five victims of the Depuy Pinnacle artificial hip have answered the appeal of Depuy Orthopaedics and Johnson & Johnson in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. And as they did at trial, the plaintiffs have come out fighting.

Recap of Depuy’s Appeal

A few weeks ago I wrote about the appeal brought by Depuy and Johnson & Johnson after a Texas jury awarded $502 million dollars to five plaintiffs. You can read about the Defendants’ appeal here. But to recap, Depuy and J&J argue that they were unfairly prejudiced by the plaintiffs’ team aggressive tactics at trial. They argue that Defendants are entitled to a new trial because the plaintiffs’ team had “a strategy” to “inflame the jury through highly prejudicial evidence and wholly inappropriate argument.”

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Depuy Pinnacle TrialI will not forget my first jury trial. It was many years ago, not long after I graduated from law school, and let’s just say I was in over my head a bit. It was a simple car crash case. I represented a driver who was rear-ended and injured (but not seriously). I walked my client through his direct examination, and I thought it was going well. Then the insurance defense lawyer was given the opportunity to cross-examine my client. He asked simple questions about the severity of the injuries (“were you able to return to work a week later?”) and after eight or ten of these questions, I objected. The judge peered down at me over his reading glasses:

“Counselor?”
“Yes your honor, I object.”
“On what grounds?”
“This line of questioning is prejudicial.”
“Prejudicial?”
“Yes, your honor. I move to strike the testimony as prejudicial.”

The judge sat back in his chair. “Mr. Hodges, wouldn’t every question on cross-examination be prejudicial to your case?” This query reminded me of the complete language of Rule of Evidence 403: The court may “exclude relevant evidence if its value is substantially outweighed by a danger of . . . unfair prejudice.” I had remembered most of the rule, but not the key word: unfair. All evidence presented in any court case is supposed to be prejudicial to the other side’s case. To exclude evidence under Rule 403, the testimony must be unfairly prejudicial.

But the judge was still waiting for my answer. The jury waited too. I tried my best:
“Well, yes, your honor. But this testimony is unfairly prejudicial.” At least I had finally wedged in the key word.
“I don’t think so, counselor, objection overruled.”

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Patient with Artificial Hip Failure
Not all artificial hips fail. Many total hip replacement surgeries are successful. Unfortunately, the metal-on-metal artificial hips have “failed” at a rate much higher than previous artificial hips, whose components typically consisted of a combination of metals, plastics, and ceramics. The metal-on-metal design placed a metal ball or head directly into a metal acetabular cup. By using a metal cup and a metal ball, these artificial hips forced metal to rub against metal with the full weight and pressure of the human body.

In any hip replacement surgery, there is a period of rehabilitation. Even with great surgery results, the patient will suffer some soreness, stiffness, and a period to regain strength, mobility, and comfort. From the dozens of people I have spoken with over the years who have undergone hip replacement surgery, even successful hip replacements do not turn you into a completely pain-free eighteen year old athlete.

For many patients, however, particularly those who received the metal-on-metal hip, there may come a point when they wonder if their artificial hip has failed. But given that all hip surgeries initially come with some discomfort and pain, how do they know if their hip has failed.

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Depuy Pinnacle MDL TexasImagine going to sleep the night after making the decision to strip five hundred million dollars from six families. I imagine it would be unsettling. On Tuesday, Judge Ed Kinkeade, a federal judge in Texas overseeing the Depuy Pinnacle MDL, made the decision to cut $500,000,000.00 from a jury award presented to six families after a grueling ten-week trial last fall. You can read about the trial and the jury’s verdict here. In that post I wrote that the jury’s verdict was “staggering,” and it was. It may be more staggering that a judge, less than a month later, would wipe out half a billion dollars of the jury’s award.

“Single-Digit Multipliers”

On January 3, 2017, Judge Kinkeade issued his post-trial court order reducing the amount of punitive damages awarded to the six families, writing that “constitutional considerations limit the amount a plaintiff may recover in punitive damages.” The relevant portion of the Order states:

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Pharmaceuticals Are Big BusinessPharmaceutical drugs and medical devices are big business. In 2014, Americans spent $3 trillion on healthcare. Medical device and pharmaceutical drug companies are scrambling to meet the demand for healthcare products and services which is great for business, but not always for the patient.

Despite large amounts of time and money spent on drug and medical device research and development, those drugs and devices don’t always work as intended. This often results in lawsuits. With so many patients taking a given drug or medical device, there are often thousands of lawsuits pending all around the country. In order to handle the cases as efficiently as possible, they are often consolidated into a multi-district litigation, or MDL.

Three notable MDLs that are ongoing and set to make waves in 2017 concern Pinnacle hip implants by DePuy Pinnacle Orthopaedics, the Xarelto blood thinner produced by Janssen Pharmaceutica and Bayer and pelvic mesh implants manufactured by a variety of companies.

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Texas Depuy Pinnacle Hip TrialStaggering. It’s really the only word for it. Yesterday a Texas jury awarded six plaintiffs over one billion dollars for injuries sustained following the failure of the Depuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal artificial hip. And that comes out to more than $170,000,000.00 per plaintiff. The verdict was handed down last night following ten weeks of punishing trial.

This trial was the third “bellwether” case in the Depuy Pinnacle MDL (multidistrict litigation). The first Pinnacle bellwether trial ended in a defense verdict, which means the jury did not find negligence on the part of the defendants, Depuy Orthopaedics and Johnson & Johnson, and therefore the plaintiffs received no compensation. The second bellwether trial resulted in a huge $502 million dollar verdict for five plaintiffs, which I wrote about here. In fact, much of the speculation about this third bellwether trial was whether the plaintiffs’ team could put on the same powerful case that they did in the second bellwether trial, or whether the $500 million verdict in March was simply a bizarre outlier, one of those remarkable unicorn verdicts that come along once and never again.

Today, the $500 million dollar verdict seems modest compared to yesterday’s jury verdict. Plainly, juries are sending a huge message to Depuy and J&J that they hurt many people when they marketed and sold the Depuy Pinnacle Hip.

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Third Depuy Pinnacle Bellwether Trial
The latest Depuy Pinnacle Hip bellwether trial is underway in Dallas, Texas. All bellwether trials are important, but this one is more important than most. After all, this trial follows an astonishing result in the second bellwether trial, where a jury awarded five plaintiffs more than $500,000,000.00 in damages for injuries caused by the Depuy Pinnacle hip. More about that case in a moment. But this third bellwether trial is critically important to Depuy and Johnson & Johnson (the Depuy Pinnacle manufacturers) who desperately need a court victory after the second bellwether trial. Another large verdict for the plaintiffs will most likely change the fate of any global settlement with the eight thousand plaintiffs who still have cases against Depuy and Johnson & Johnson.

Third Depuy Pinnacle Bellwether Trial

Judge Kinkeade, the federal judge in Texas overseeing the Depuy Pinnacle multidistrict litigation, selected seven individual cases to be consolidated in the current bellwether trial. The plaintiffs are Marvin Andrews, Kathleen Davis, Sandra Llamas, Rosa Metzler, Judith Rodriguez, Lisa Standerfer, and Michael Weiser. All the plaintiffs are from California. Their cases were transferred to the Depuy Pinnacle MDL in Dallas, Texas.

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Depuy Pinnacle Jury AwardIn March 2016 five people injured by the Depuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal artificial hip scored a huge courtroom victory. In that case a Texas jury awarded five plaintiffs $502,043,908.00 for injuries suffered by the failure of the Depuy Pinnacle hip. That figure was divided in different ways to the five injured people. Of that amount, $360,000,000.00 was awarded by the jury for punitive damages. The jury concluded that the Pinnacle hip sold by Depuy was defective and that Depuy knew about the flaws but did not adequately warn patients and their doctors of the risks. Like I said, this was a huge win. Unfortunately, the punitive damages award did not last long.

Judge Forced to Reduce Punitive Damages Award

Punitive damages are money damages, separate from compensatory damages, which are awarded by a jury and which are intended to punish or deter a bad-acting defendant and others from engaging in similar conduct. Judge Kinkeade, who is the federal judge presiding over the Depuy Pinnacle multi-district litigation (MDL), stated that he was bound by a Texas statute which puts a limit or “cap” on the amount of punitive damages a jury can award. Thus, Judge Kinkeade was required by law to reduce the punitive damages award, which a jury of twelve individuals, after a 42 day trial, thought was appropriate.

Thank You, Tort Reform!

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