Articles Tagged with Bellwether Cases

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Calculating DePuy Pinnacle Jury AwardsIn the last three DePuy Pinnacle artificial hip bellwether trials, three juries awarded the following amounts of money: $502,000,000.00, $1,041,311,648.17, and $247,000,000.00. That’s a total of $1.79 billion dollars. The juries awarded plaintiffs compensatory damages (or actual damages) and punitive damages (to “punish” the defendant companies). Remember that these juries settled on these huge amounts of money based on their findings in three separate trials that DePuy and Johnson & Johnson were liable for design and manufacturing defects, that the defendants failed to warn plaintiffs about the risks of the defective artificial hip, and that defendants acted recklessly, intentionally, and even maliciously in marketing and selling the flawed DePuy Pinnacle hip. These last findings permitted the juries to award punitive damages.

In the bellwether trial in March 2016, a jury awarded more than $500,000,000.00 to five plaintiffs. On December 1, 2016 a jury awarded more than one billion dollars to six plaintiffs and four spouses. And finally, just two weeks ago, a jury awarded six plaintiffs (and four spouses) $247,000,000.00 in compensatory and punitive damages. Compared to the total awards, the amounts awarded to the spouses of the hip victims were modest, and appear to have totaled around $6,700,000.00.

Let’s do a little math:

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Last week I wrote a timeline on the key events surrounding the failure of the Depuy ASR artificial hip. Today I want to take a similar look at the Depuy Pinnacle artificial hip. The Pinnacle was supposed to be the ASR’s more active and athletic brother. But it didn’t turn out that way.

1995: Study on Metal-on-Metal Hips Released

Study on Metal on Metal Artificial Hips
For all metal-on-metal artificial hips, we have to start with the central question: what did the manufacturer know, and when did the manufacturer know it? In 1995, Dr. Graham Isaac released a short paper discussing the problems with metal-on-metal (MoM) artificial hips. Dr. Isaac explained that the performance of MoM hip implants was “unpredictable,” that the hips may work well for some time “before suffering catastrophic breakdown . . . accompanied by a release of a large volume of debris.” This paper and Depuy’s other internal documents suggest that Depuy Orthopaedics should have known about the metal-on-metal risk factors in 1995. In fact, one doctor noted that Depuy needed “to be cautious of the legal/litigation issues and lawyers, etc…perception of metal debris and metal-ion release.” That’s not good.

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IVC Filter Bellwether CasesA “bellwether” is someone or something that leads others or shows what will happen in the future or is an indicator of trends. In the legal world a bellwether case is very important because it leads the way in how a large number of lawsuits may be litigated or settled.

Too Many Cases, Not Enough Resources

If there are many plaintiffs suing the same defendant for the same reason with similar facts there are different ways all these cases could be handled. They could,

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They say justice delayed is justice denied. Apparently Judge Kinkeade in the Depuy Pinnacle Artificial Hip MDL thinks so. On June 10, 2016, Judge Kinkeade denied Depuy’s motion to delay all future trials until the company completes its appeal of a massive $500 million jury verdict.

Depuy Motion to Stay DeniedDepuy Orthopaedics and its parent company Johnson & Johnson filed their “motion to stay” on May 24, 2016. They asked the court to delay all further trials in the Depuy Pinnacle MDL until an appellate court rules on their appellate issues. (It is very common for a company in any case to appeal a trial verdict when the jury awards significant damages to the plaintiffs.) Depuy claimed there were significant errors made at the trial. Depuy also argued that the decision in the appeal could have “far-reaching implications” on how future Pinnacle cases are tried. Defendants claimed the “grounds for appeal are strong” and that they “acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing” of the devices.

Judge Kinkeade, who presides over the Depuy Pinnacle MDL in Dallas, Texas, denied the motion to stay the trials. In his order Judge Kinkeade selected seven bellwether cases to be tried beginning September 6, 2016. You can read that Order here.

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