J&J/DePuy metal hip liability trial faces lengthy delay

What was supposed to be the first federal trial over a lawsuit alleging Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) DePuy division sold faulty all-metal hips never began as planned in late September. It turns out that a start date may not happen for three more months (if it happens at all), due to challenges involved in scheduling expert witnesses.

U.S. District Court Judge David Katz in Ohio tacked on the additional delay after the witness-scheduling obstacles, noted the law firm Brown, Paindiris & Scott, which is representing a number of plaintiffs in metal-hip lawsuits against J&J and its rivals. The trial had initially been set to begin on Sept. 9 and then was rescheduled to Sep. 24, the attorneys explained.

J&J/DePuy's ASR metal-on-metal hips have been a fiasco for the company, which recalled 93,000 of them globally in 2010. The global consumer and healthcare products giant faces up to 11,500 lawsuits alleging that it sold a defective product that harmed thousands of patients (something that rivals including Stryker ($SYK) and Biomet are also facing). The federal trial, once it starts, is a major milestone because close to 8,000 federal lawsuits are consolidated under Judge Katz, the attorney announcement said.

It remains an open question at this point, however, whether the federal trial will even start. Media reports have suggested that J&J may want to settle all of its remaining lawsuits--a deal that could surpass $3 billion.

J&J, meanwhile, has settled at least two other metal hip lawsuits so far in October. Executives have said that the company will leave the metal-on-metal and ceramic-on-metal hip business by the end of 2014. Rather than blame the metal hip lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson said it is cutting back on hips because of rapidly declining clinician use of the products, plus stricter FDA regulations.

- read the attorney release