J&J scores victory in first metal-on-metal hip implant case to go to trial

J&J's Pinnacle hip implant--Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) scored a victory in the first case to go to trial for its metal-on-metal hip implants, as a Texas jury ruled against a woman who claimed that Pinnacle devices made by the company's DePuy subsidiary poisoned her and caused undue pain and suffering.

A 9-member panel in a federal court in Dallas, TX, concluded that J&J's Pinnacle line of Ultamet artificial hips did not have design defects and that the company sufficiently warned patients and doctors about the devices' risks, Bloomberg reports. Kathleen Herlihy-Paoli alleged that J&J/DePuy's Pinnacle implants leaked cobalt and chromium material into her bloodstream, causing the devices to be surgically removed, but the jury denied her request for more than $1.5 million in damages.

The ruling bodes well for J&J, which faces more than 6,000 lawsuits over its Pinnacle hip implants including some cases consolidated before U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade in Dallas. In August 2013, the company stopped selling the metal-on-metal version of the product after the FDA announced a more stringent review process for new iterations of the devices.

DePuy officials lauded the Dallas jury's recent decision and said the company would continue to push for a "vigorous defense" in other implant suits.

"The evidence showed that Ultamet Metal-on-Metal was designed to meet the needs of patients and is backed by clinical data showing a track record of safety and effectiveness in reducing pain and restoring mobility for patients suffering from chronic hip pain," DePuy spokeswoman Mindy Tinsley told Bloomberg in an emailed statement.

J&J has faced its fair share of courtroom drama over hip implants in recent years. In November 2013, the company's DePuy subsidiary agreed to fork over $2.5 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits related to defective ASR all-metal hip implants. J&J said that about 8,000 patients who received the devices are eligible for compensation, but is still defending against remaining claims. In 2010, the company recalled 93,000 of the implants citing a 12% failure rate within 5 years.

Meanwhile, J&J continues to deal with legal woes on other fronts. In September, the company's Ethicon unit lost a battle in its ongoing vaginal mesh litigation when a federal jury in West Virginia ordered J&J to pay $3.27 million to a woman who claimed undue pain and serious side effects from the device. Jurors found J&J/Ethicon liable for selling faulty Gynecare TVT Obturator, or TVT-O, transvaginal mesh products and for failing to warn patients and doctors about risks such as pain, bleeding and infection.

- read the Bloomberg story

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