Articles Tagged with Pinnacle

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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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On November 16, 2017, yet another Texas jury Huge Verdict in Fourth DePuy Pinnacle Trialdelivered a huge verdict to the victims of the DePuy Pinnacle artificial hip. In this fourth bellwether trial, the jury awarded $247,000,000.00 to six plaintiffs and their spouses. According to news reports, after a two-month, hard-fought trial, the jury found that DePuy Orthopaedics and parent company Johnson & Johnson were liable to plaintiffs for the Pinnacle’s design and manufacturing defects. But the jury went further, concluding that the actions of the companies were fraudulent and deceptive, and that they had acted recklessly and maliciously in manufacturing, selling, and promoting the flawed products.

These last terms have special meaning in law: findings of fraud, deception, recklessness, and malice indicate that the companies went beyond mere negligence, that the defendants misbehaved intentionally or with a reckless disregard to the fact that their actions would harm innocent people. Because of these special findings, the plaintiffs were entitled to receive “punitive damages” from DePuy and J&J, which are money damages intended to punish defendants for especially bad behavior.

The jury awarded $90 million dollars in punitive damages to be paid by J&J, and $78 million in punitive damages to be paid by DePuy. That’s $168 million in total punitive damages. It is a lot of money.

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Fourth Depuy Pinnacle Hip Bellwether Trial in Dallas Texas
By all accounts, each of the three bellwether trials in the DePuy Pinnacle artificial hip MDL has been contentious. In the fourth bellwether trial, which should wrap up this week, the litigants have been in a fierce battle again. The most recent skirmish has centered on allegations by plaintiffs suggesting that lawyers for DePuy Orthopaedics may have been trying to influence the testimony of a witness for the plaintiffs.

I want to share with you the affidavit submitted by Dr. David Shein, a surgeon who treated three of the six plaintiffs involved in the current trial. Dr. Shein was once expected to be called as a fact witness in the case by the plaintiffs.

Affidavit of David Shein, M.D.

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Some of my clients have been asking me what is going on with the fourth Depuy Pinnacle bellwether trial. Non-clients have also been calling to inquire about the status of the trial. Did it start this week? Was it postponed? What is the deal with Depuy and Johnson & Johnson trying to stop the trial? Let’s take a quick look:

Fourth Bellwether Trial Underway 

Depuy Pinnacle MDL in Texas
The short answer is yes, the fourth bellwether trial began on Monday (September 18, 2017). Six plaintiffs injured by the Depuy Pinnacle hip (and four spouses) are bringing their claims against defendants in Dallas, Texas before Judge Kinkeade. You can read about previous Pinnacle bellwether trials and their huge jury awards here and here.

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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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“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: