In the first bellwether trial over the metal-on-metal version of the DePuy Pinnacle hip implant, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is accused of knowing that the device could cause metal poisoning since as early as 2001. A consulting doctor raised concerns about the artificial hips potentially releasing metal particles into the body.
Kathleen Herlihy-Paoili of Montana alleges that the hips released cobalt and chromium particles into her body, causing an infection that necessitated surgical removal of both Pinnacle hip implants. According to Bloomberg, there are more than 6,000 Pinnacle lawsuits pending and hers is the first to go to trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Dallas). The outcome of the first few trials may help determine the course of the remaining cases
Court documents allege that DePuy misled patients and their doctors about the safety of the Pinnacle hips. DePuy sponsored a “nationwide satellite telecast to physicians…to tout the advantages of the Pinnacle Device, including representations of the benefits of metal-on-metal hip replacements,” according to Bloomberg News. The Pinnacle hips were first sold in the U.S. in 2005 and J&J promoted the metal-on-metal device design as one that would last 20 years and offer recipients greater range of motion. Durability is a significant concern for younger hip recipients, who may face more than one replacement in their lifetime.
Metal-on-metal hip implants have come under scrutiny since J&J recalled 93,000 ASR hip implants worldwide in August 2010, for which J&J has already settled ASR lawsuits under a $2.5 billion settlement.
It was alleged that DePuy officials found a failure rate of 15 percent in five years with the Pinnacle, compared to the expected 5 percent in that time frame. The allegations were based off of internal files from 2012, Bloomberg reports. The company was accused of misleading marketing, as was demonstrated by a 2007 patient-marketing brochure shown in court, which stated that 99.9 percent of the devices were still in use after five years.
The court was also presented with a 2008 email correspondence between DePuy executives, who discussed the fact that Dr. Thomas Schmalzried had discovered extensive tissue damage related to the implant in one patient. The emails showed that the doctor found the case “alarming and concerning.”
In addition, it was reported that company files showed that Dr. John Irving, an orthopedic surgeon in Hartford, Connecticut, contacted DePuy on multiple occasions to report a high failure rate with the metal-on-metal version of the Pinnacle. Dr. Irving wrote a letter to Andrew Ekdahl, ex-DePuy President, in 2010 stating that the high rate of complications he observed “is an epidemic” that he thought to be “borderline unethical to continue to market these products until the issues are elucidated. These products are harming patients.” It was reported that Irving again contacted DePuy in 2012 when a Pinnacle patient committed suicide after complaining of the pain, stating that he was so depressed and thought he would never resolve the problem. As of yet, the Pinnacle is not recalled.
The Pinnacle jury trial is expected to last 6-8 weeks. We will post updates.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries as a result of a metal-on-metal implant device, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Contact one of our experienced Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878) for more information.