A request by Depuy Orthopaedics Inc. to delay more trials concerning its Depuy Pinnacle hip implants is pending in the federal court in charge of thousands of cases against the company. The request came from Depuy on May 24. Depuy asks the Court to hold off on further trials until an appeal of one large case tried in March is resolved. That case, which I wrote about here and here, resulted in a stunning $502 million verdict for five people injured by the defective artificial hip components. So Depuy is plainly motivated to delay, if not overturn, the award. If the request is granted it will take much longer for other plaintiffs to have their cases tried, as complex appeals like this one can take years to resolve. As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied. I hope federal judge Ed Kinkeade in Texas denies Depuy’s motion. These remaining cases deserve their day in court.
Depuy and the other defendants claim their planned appeal could have “far-reaching implications” on how future cases are tried. Defendants claim the “grounds for appeal are strong” and that they “acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing” of the devices.
$502 Million Dollar Verdict
The jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas awarded $142 million for actual damages (harm and losses the plaintiffs suffered). The jury then awarded $360 million in punitive damages (meant to punish defendants for their actions or failures to act) to five plaintiffs. They claim their hips failed and needed to be surgically removed, according to Bloomberg. Depuy’s attorneys claim that under Texas law the punitive damages award should be reduced to about $10 million.
Allegations Against Depuy, J&J
Johnson & Johnson, which owns Depuy, is accused of covering up defects which caused the hips to fail. These defects caused pain and other complications and required additional, “revision” surgeries. The jury found for five plaintiffs, deciding:
- The hips were defective, and
- Depuy knew about the problems, but
- Failed to warn patients and physicians about the risks.
The jury found for the defendants in a sixth case. Depuy claimed that plaintiff’s problems were caused by the physician improperly implanting the hip.
Johnson & Johnson and Depuy are facing about 8,000 lawsuits concerning the Depuy Pinnacle artificial hips. They feature a metal ball and socket joint. Plaintiffs claim the metal-on-metal design grinds together inside the body, releasing cobalt and chromium metals into the blood.
Appeals Take Time
An appeal in a federal case can be costly and time consuming. But the defendants don’t really have a choice after getting crushed with a $502 million dollar jury verdict. And the upside for Depuy and the other defendants can be huge: If they are successful they may avoid paying tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. These appeals can take a very long time, especially if,
- The losing party eventually appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, or
- The appellate court agrees with the appeal and orders the cases be re-tried.
If the rest of the artificial hip claims are put on hold until the appeals process concludes it might be years before the next group of cases goes to trial.
These “bellwether” cases have been consolidated in similar groupings to see how they play out in front of a jury.
- As the verdicts are decided the parties have a better idea what their settlement value is, and
- Once the parties have a better grip on that it’s hoped the rest of the cases can be settled without trials.
If the request to delay the rest of the cases is approved the appeal will delay other trials, it could take longer to settle the cases and take more time for thousands of plaintiffs to be fairly compensated. Stay tuned.