J&J slammed with $1B verdict over metal-on-metal hip implants

J&J has been facing litigation over its Pinnacle metal-on-metal implants since 2014. It ceased selling the product in 2013. Image: Luis Garcia CC BY-SA 3.0

A Dallas jury commanded Johnson & Johnson to pay up $1 billion to plaintiffs claiming injury from from the company’s metal-on-metal hip implants. This follows a $500 million verdict concerning the same implants, handed down in March this year.

The 6 plaintiffs reported injuries such as tissue death and bone erosion that they blamed on the device design. Jurors at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas found that the Pinnacle Ultamet hip implants, manufactured by J&J’s DePuy Orthopaedics business, were “defectively designed” and that J&J and DePuy did not warn consumers of the risk, Reuters reported. The trial consolidated 6 cases out of the more than 8,000 lawsuits the company is facing over the Pinnacle implants.

In a victory for J&J, the jury ruled against the plaintiff in the October 2014 case, denying her the $1.5 million she was seeking in damages. But this verdict and the $500 million one from March don’t paint a pretty future for J&J. The company may catch a break as, in July, a federal judge cut the $500 million verdict to $151 thanks to a Texas law that curbs punitive damages. But J&J isn’t out of the woods yet, as the plaintiffs in that case are appealing the judge’s decision, according to Reuters.

J&J will immediately appeal the verdict, the devicemaker said in a statement.

“DePuy acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing of ULTAMET Metal-on-Metal, and the product is backed by a strong track record of clinical data showing reduced pain and restored mobility for patients suffering from chronic hip pain,” said Mindy Tinsley, a DePuy spokeswoman.

While the company denies misconduct, it stopped selling the implants in August 2013, following an FDA announcement saying it would step up its review process for new versions of the product.