Johnson & Johnson's DePuy division has settled a lawsuit in a California state court alleging that it sold a faulty metal hip that harmed a man and needed to be replaced after failing. That leaves up to 11,500 remaining lawsuits, and speculation remains that the world's largest maker of healthcare products wants to negotiate a deal to resolve the rest.
Robert Eugene Ottman's lawsuit against J&J/DePuy ($JNJ) had been slated to start in mid-October. But a notice of settlement was filed Oct. 1 in San Francisco Superior Court, taking the case off the judicial calendar. No other details were available in the online court docket. Ottman had sued over alleged side effects he faced from J&J's all-metal ASR hip implant, which he said failed and needed to be replaced in a second surgery.
A DePuy spokesperson acknowledged to FierceMedicalDevices via email that a notice of settlement has been filed. She added that "ASR Hip System lawsuits are examined individually in light of the individual nature of the claims. In individual cases, the company may consider the appropriateness of settlement."
The Rottenstein Law Group, which is handling a number of ASR-related lawsuits, noted in a statement that the Ottman case was supposed to be the first trial in the state consolidation of ASR cases.
As of August, a number of news agencies reported that J&J was considering a massive settlement that could surpass $3 billion to resolve the company's remaining lawsuits over its ASR metal hip implants. Such a deal would compensate plaintiffs based, in part, on the severity of their injuries, and how many surgeries they needed to remove the defective implants.
In 2010, J&J addressed rising safety problems over the product by launching a global recall of 93,000 hips, 37,000 of which were in the U.S. DePuy has also spent close to $993 million to date to handle patient-related medical costs and other recall expenses. J&J has said it would leave the metal-on-metal and ceramic-on-metal hip business by the end of 2014, because of plunging clinician use of the product class and pending FDA regulations that would toughen the metal hip regulatory process.
Meanwhile, many of Johnson & Johnson's rivals also face thousands of lawsuits over metal hip implants and alleged health and safety problems they have caused.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from Johnson & Johnson/DePuy.