A federal jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopaedics unit to pay more than $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages to six plaintiffs who sustained debilitating injuries purportedly associated with a metal-on-metal version of the Pinnacle Hip Replacement System. In doing so, jurors found that the plaintiffs’ hip implants were defectively designed and that the companies failed to warn consumers about their risks.

This latest Pinnacle hip verdict was rendered last Thursday in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, following a two-month trial. It was the third case to go before a jury in a multidistrict litigation that includes more than 8,400 Pinnacle hip lawsuits, and the second time a jury has awarded Pinnacle plaintiffs significant financial damages. As a bellwether case, the outcome was expected to provide some insight into how other juries could rule in similar claims.

Pinnacle Hip Manufacturers Rejected Settlement Offer

The total judgment included $32 million in compensatory damages, while $1.009 billion constituted punitive damages. According to Reuters, such massive verdicts are often scaled back by the courts. However, all six plaintiffs were residents of California, which does not place a cap on punitive damages.

One plaintiffs’ attorney told Reuters that Johnson & Johnson had rejected a $1.8 million settlement offer just before the trial began. The same attorney characterized the verdict as “a message loud and clear” that Johnson & Johnson has “a really nasty part of their business they need to clean up.”

The federal litigation’s second Pinnacle hip trial concluded in March, with $140 million in compensatory damages and $360 million in punitive damages awarded to five plaintiffs. However, in July, the Court reduced punitive damages to $10 million, so as to comply with the Texas cap on such awards. The first Pinnacle hip trial ended in October 2015 with a decision favoring the defense.

Metal-on-Metal Hips

The Pinnacle hip at the center of this litigation features a metal-on-metal configuration that utilizes the Ultamet liner. Plaintiffs claim that this design allows toxic metal ions to be shed from the hip implant and accumulate in the surrounding tissue and bone, leading to adverse local tissue reactions and other serious complications. All six plaintiffs involved in this latest trial were forced to undergo revision surgery to replace their implant as a result of such injuries.

In January 2013, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warned that metal-on-metal hips were more likely to fail prematurely compared to those made of other materials. In May of that year, DePuy announced it would end sales of all-metal hip devices, including the implant named in Pinnacle hip lawsuits. However, the company maintained that the decision was made for commercial reasons, rather than safety concerns. Johnson & Johnson and DePuy continue to deny allegations put forth by Pinnacle hip plaintiffs, and have promised to appeal this latest verdict.

Bernstein Liebhard LLP represents individuals who experienced complications allegedly related to the all-metal version of the DePuy Pinnacle hip implant. To learn more, please call 877-779-1414.

Published December 7, 2016 by