J&J's $2.5B-plus metal hip settlement offer approaches April 1 deadline

Remember that $2.5 billion-plus agreement Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) proposed last November to resolve 8,000 patient lawsuits involving defective all-metal hip implants? Those folks have until April 1 to decide whether to sign on to the deal. It's not clear yet whether the conglomerate will draw in enough people so the settlement can move forward.

NBC 5 in Chicago noted that 94% of the eligible plaintiffs must sign on. But some are truly hesitant about the deal, according to the story, which would hit the $150,000-$160,000 range after attorneys' fees are factored in.

"I really don't want to accept this out of principle, out of morals, ethics, but also just financially. Financially I can't accept it," plaintiff Scotty MacGregor told NBC 5. She received one of J&J's ASR all-metal hip implants and ended up needing a second surgery involving the device before suing. The FDA recalled more than 93,000 ASR metal hips, 37,000 of which were in the U.S., in 2010 after unusually high failure rates.

Plaintiff discontent already erupted later in November, when it became clear that payments could go lower based on a complex mathematical formula that factors in everything from age to weight, whether a patient smokes or not and how long a patient endured the ASR implant before surgeons removed it. Back then, a number of patients had already termed the settlement agreement as questionable and pledged to keep fighting on their own.

If Johnson & Johnson doesn't get the 94% number that it wants, the company could pull the offer, as NBC 5 noted. And that would leave thousands of lawsuits to proceed on their own.

Johnson & Johnson's DePuy division, which made the ASR hips, told NBC 5 that the settlement offer "provides fair compensation without the delay and uncertainty of protracted litigation, and it takes into consideration patients' specific medical circumstances" based on negotiations between J&J and "the leading plaintiff lawyers from around the country"--including MacGregor's attorney. We'll see in just a couple of weeks whether enough J&J ASR plaintiffs believe that statement for themselves.

- here's the full NBC 5 story

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