(Adds comment, background)
By Erica Teichert
Dec 1 A federal jury in Dallas on Thursday
ordered Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopaedics
unit to pay more than $1 billion to six plaintiffs who said they
were injured by Pinnacle hip implants.
The jurors found that the metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip
implants were defectively designed and that the companies failed
to warn consumers about the risks.
J&J, which faces more than 8,000 lawsuits over the hip
implants, said in a statement it would immediately appeal the
verdict and was committed to defending itself and DePuy from
further litigation over the Pinnacle devices.
The six plaintiffs awarded more than $1 billion are
California residents who were implanted with the hip devices and
experienced tissue death, bone erosion and other injuries they
attributed to design flaws. Plaintiffs claimed the companies
promoted the devices as lasting longer than devices that include
ceramic or plastic materials.
Both companies denied any wrongdoing stemming from the
development and marketing of the devices.
According to plaintiff's lawyer Mark Lanier, the total
verdict of $1.041 billion included $32 million in compensatory
damages. The rest were punitive damages.
Verdicts of such size are often scaled back by courts. In
July, the judge presiding over this case, U.S. District Judge
Edward Kinkeade, reduced a $500 million verdict in an earlier
Pinnacle implant case to $151 million, citing a Texas state law
that limits punitive damages awards.
J&J and DePuy have been hit with nearly 8,400 lawsuits over
the devices, which have been consolidated in Texas federal
court. Test cases have been selected for trial, and their
outcomes will help gauge the value of the remaining claims.
The verdict on Thursday came in the third test case, with
the second producing the earlier $500 million verdict. J&J and
DePuy were cleared of liability in the first test case in 2014
Lanier said Thursday's verdict was "a message loud and
clear" that J&J has "a really nasty part of their business they
need to clean up."
The company rejected a $1.8 million settlement offer from
the plaintiffs before trial, Lanier said.
The plaintiffs in the second test case have appealed
Kinkeade's decision to cut the award. Johnson & Johnson and
DePuy have also appealed the jury verdict in the case.
In its statement, J&J criticized the trial judge over certain
rulings it claimed help the plaintiffs.
"Today's verdict provides no guidance on the merits of the
overall Pinnacle litigation because the court's rulings
precluded a fair presentation to the jury," said John Beisner,
He said the company will ask the appeals court to postpone
any additional trials over the implant defects.
DePuy ceased selling the metal-on-metal Pinnacle devices in
2013 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strengthened
its artificial hip regulations.
J&J and DePuy also paid $2.5 billion that year to settle
more than 7,000 lawsuits over its ASR metal-on-metal hip
devices. The ASR devices were recalled in 2010 due to high
J&J shares fell 38 cents to $111 in after-hours trading.
They had closed up 8 cents during the day.
(Reporting by Erica Teichert in New York; Editing by Jonathan
Oatis and Tom Brown)