Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) $8.3 million defeat in a U.S. jury trial over its ASR metal-on-metal hip implant could force it to settle a massive class action lawsuit in Australia over the same product.
Lawyers representing 4,500 ASR implant patients in Australia may ask the country's Federal Court to order Johnson & Johnson (and executives from DePuy division that made the implants) to focus on negotiating a settlement in the wake of the company's defeat at the hands of a Los Angeles jury earlier this month, the Sydney Morning Herald reports this week. The negotiations would take place through a week of mediation in May.
Beyond the outcome itself, some of the testimony during the Los Angeles trial has also given their case a shot in the arm: J&J executives appear to have been told they didn't act to address faulty ASR implants even though they knew about the product's mounting safety and mechanical problems.
Presumably, J&J is prepared. The company pursued a global recall of the ASR implant system in 2010, and has boosted the amount of money set aside to handle rising legal costs stemming from lawsuits and settlement cases around the world. To date, J&J has already spent nearly $1 billion on ASR-related settlements.
More than 10,000 ASR-related lawsuits against J&J remain, and, since the Los Angeles case, a New Jersey jury ordered it to pay $11.2 million to an ASR plaintiff whose device failed and then faced a number of repeat surgeries. The lawsuits allege J&J designed a defective product and didn't pursue proper safety and regulatory practices, but J&J denies any wrongdoing and has countered that patients complaining of ASR-related health problems endured unrelated issues. Many plaintiffs claim the implant damaged tissue around it and released metal fragments into their bodies.
Meanwhile, as the Sydney Morning Herald reports, the ASR hip implant had a 44% failure rate in Australia within seven years, according to Australian registry data cited by the story.
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