Johnson & Johnson Loses Its First Metal-on-Metal Implant Case

A jury in Los Angeles ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay damages of more than $8.3 million to a Montana man, in what is the first of more than 10,000 lawsuits pending against the medical implant manufacturer regarding its recalled hip implant.

The jury of 12 declined to issue punitive damages, stating that the company’s DePuy orthopedics unit, which manufactured and marketed the all-metal device, did not act with fraud or malice. The implant, known as the Articular Surface Replacement (ASR), was recalled in 2010.

In its decision, the jury panel ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the retired prison guard, Loren Kransky, $338,000 to cover his medical expenses. They also awarded him $8 million to cover his pain and emotional suffering.

Johnson & Johnson described the verdict as “mixed,” and said they plan to appeal the damage award. The company disputed the jury’s finding that the ASR was defectively designed.
Many thousands of individual cases have been consolidated in Federal District Court in Ohio. Depending on the resolution of that action, determining the settlement of the bulk of the cases and awards to patients will be made.

DePuy began selling an alternative hip replacement (ASR), of which the ball and cup components were both made of metal. This product was sold by DePuy in 2003 outside the United States for a procedure called resurfacing. Two years later, DePuy began selling another version of the ASR in the U.S. for use in standard hip replacements, using the same cup component as the resurfacing device.

The problem was, the way in which the ASR was designed caused the cup and ball to rub against each other as the patient moved, shedding small metal particles throughout the body. The debris inflamed and destroyed tissue and bone, causing pain and in severe cases, permanent injury to the patient.

Surgeons today rarely use metal-on-metal hips, such as the ASR, because most models caused similar problems. However, data retrieved from orthopedic registries suggest that the ASR was considerably worse than its competitors’ products.

A document introduced at the Los Angeles trial from Johnson & Johnson estimated that approximately 40 percent of patients who received an ASR would require additional surgery within five years of the first operation to have the implant removed and replaced.

In a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Johnson & Johnson estimates that there are 10,750 ASR lawsuits.

It was not planned that this lawsuit over ASR would be the first to be heard in Los Angeles, but it was moved up because Mr. Kransky was found to have terminal cancer. Before the start of the Los Angeles trial, which began in late January, it was not expected for him to live through it.

Internal Johnson & Johnson documents, which became public during the trial, revealed that company executives had been told by surgeons, who were also paid consultants to the device maker, that the design of the ASR was flawed. In addition, it was alleged that some surgeons also urged the device maker to slow the sales of the implant or stop making them completely, records show.

Evidence was also presented in the case that showed that Johnson & Johnson considered redesigning the ASR to reduce its problems, but abandoned the project because sales of the implants did not justify the costs of the redesign.

Before the verdict was reached, the jury that heard Mr. Kransky’s case deliberated for more than five days. Although Mr. Kransky’s team cited DePuy’s executive’s behavior as unethical in failing to warn doctors and patients of the device’s defects, asking jurors to punish Johnson & Johnson by awarding Kransky $36 million to $144 million, jurors failed to do so.

There are thousands of cases pending of severely damaged ASR patients waiting for their day in court.  It is said that until Johnson & Johnson takes full responsibility for their negligence, they will continue to pay.

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