Why was J&J's latest metal hip liability trial delayed two weeks?

The first federal trial alleging Johnson & Johnson's DePuy arm sold faulty metal hip implants has been delayed yet again. A judge adjourned proceedings Sept. 9 to Sept. 23 to give parties on both sides time for "additional discovery" and the consideration of undefined legal matters, according to a law firm representing plaintiffs against the company.

This is the second delay in the federal trial, which was originally slated to begin in July in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. It's not like J&J ($JNJ) doesn't have enough legal matters to deal with regarding its now-recalled ASR hips. Up to 11,500 lawsuits are now pending against the company, which has so far won one civil case and lost another. Still, the company has recalled 93,000 hips, 37,000 of which were implanted in the U.S. Many other competitors, including Stryker ($SYK) and Biomet, face similar lawsuits regarding their own all-metal hip implants.

The broad legal terminology used in the judge's continuation of the J&J case surely has tongues wagging. Is this just to give attorneys more time to prepare, or is J&J hashing out a legal settlement to resolve the matter once and for all?

In August, Bloomberg and others reported that J&J was mulling just that, a settlement that could exceed $3 billion (more than $300,000 per plaintiff) if most accept the settlement. Such a deal, sources told Bloomberg, would compensate plaintiffs based, in part, on how severe their ASR-related injuries are, how many surgeries they needed to remove and replace defective implants, and their age.

Speculation a month ago was that J&J would proceed with a settlement offer based on the results of 7 upcoming product liability trials involving the ASR hips, running from September through January. But the Rottenstein Law Group, which promoted the federal trial delay and represents a number of DePuy ASR plaintiffs, suggested in its statement that the additional time could lead to a settlement.

- here's the attorney announcement