This blog has recently discussed the matter of Johnson & Johnson’s faulty hip implants. The Articular Surface Replacement (ASR) was released in the United States in 2005 and recalled in 2010. It is now the subject of more than 10,000 lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson. The first of these to go to trial was in Los Angeles, California and the jury recently decided in favor of the plaintiff.
Loren Kransky, a retired prison guard, was not supposed to be the first of the 10,000 cases to go to trial. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer though, and his case was moved up. The jury deliberated for five days before finding the device faulty and awarding Mr. Kransky $338,000 for his medical bills and $8 million for his pain and emotional suffering. They decided against issuing punitive damages because they did not believe that DePuy acted with fraud or malice.
Johnson & Johnson says it will appeal the ruling and it disputed the decision that the device had a flawed design.
The all-metal device’s design caused the cup and ball to strike against each other as the patient moved, shedding metallic debris into the body as it did so. The debris inflamed and damaged the surrounding tissue and bone, causing pain and, in some cases, permanent injuries.
All-metal implants have become mostly obsolete because most of them suffered from similar flaws. However, data suggests that the ASR was much worse than competing products. An internal Johnson & Johnson document for example, showed that close to 40% of patients who received the ASR would need to undergo a second operation within five years to have the device removed or replaced.
Traditional artificial hips on the other hand, made of metal and plastic, are expected to last at least 15 years before needing replacement. The normal replacement rate for early unexpected failures after five years is about 5%.
Experts have speculated that Johnson & Johnson will spend billions to resolve all of these lawsuits. If juries continue to award damages in amounts similar to the one they gave Mr. Kransky, the speculations will no doubt prove accurate enough. Thousands of the individual cases have been consolidated into one large proceeding in a Federal District Court in Ohio. That should simplify matters somewhat and speed up the process. A resolution of that action could also provide a framework for settling the bulk of the cases and determining awards to patients.
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