Law360, Dallas (November 16, 2017, 12:34 PM EST) -- A Texas federal jury on Thursday hit Johnson & Johnson
and its DePuy Orthopaedics Inc
. unit with a combined $247 million verdict in a bellwether trial over DePuy’s Pinnacle line of metal-on-metal hip implants, delivering the third consecutive nine-figure verdict in the multidistrict litigation.
The unanimous jury found J&J and DePuy liable for a series of design and manufacturing defects, fraud and deceptive business practices, and found the companies had acted with wanton, reckless or malicious conduct. They awarded $90 million in punitive damages against J&J and $78 million in punitive damages against DePuy.
For the six individual plaintiffs, each of whom is from New York, the jury awarded more than $77 million in past and future medical expenses and pain and suffering, including each plaintiffs’ actual past medical expenses, the amounts of which were stipulated to by the parties. Four of the plaintiffs’ spouses were awarded loss of consortium damages totaling $1.7 million.
The verdict followed a two-month trial, the fourth bellwether in multidistrict litigation that includes more than 9,000 cases alleging design defects in DePuy’s Pinnacle Ultamet line of metal-on-metal hip implants. In 2016, Texas juries found in favor of two groups of plaintiffs from Texas and California, awarding them $502 million and more than $1 billion in damages respectively, though those verdicts were later reduced to $150 million and $543 million. In the first bellwether trial involving the Pinnacle Ultamet, a jury sided with J&J against a sole plaintiff from Montana.
The jury specifically found J&J and DePuy liable for design defect, negligent design, inadequate warning, manufacturing defect, negligent manufacture, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation to the surgeons who performed the initial hip implant surgeries on the plaintiffs, fraudulent concealment from the plaintiffs and from the surgeons and deceptive business practices as to the plaintiffs and the surgeons. The jury also found J&J liable for negligent undertaking of a duty to provide services to DePuy and for aiding and abetting DePuy in its tortious conduct. The jury did not find J&J or DePuy liable for intentional misrepresentation to the plaintiffs.
During the trial, the six plaintiffs told jurors they’d suffered a range of injuries, including severe tissue damage that caused permanent muscle loss, intense pain, loss of hip movement and walking with a permanent limp. They say the Pinnacle product shed microscopic metal ions into their bodies, causing side effects that J&J and DePuy didn’t warn surgeons about and that could have been avoided with a safer design.
The plaintiffs alleged J&J and DePuy valued marketing above research and development and rushed the Pinnacle product into production without any testing in humans out of a desire to capture a greater market share. They claimed the companies pushed the Pinnacle product with an incorrect statistic that it was 99 percent successful and that they’d used cheaper, less safe alternatives in the manufacturing process to keep costs down, and said the alleged defects in the product turned people’s hips into “ticking time bombs.”
In his closing statement, plaintiffs' counsel Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm
asked the jury to punish J&J "for being indifferent to our health” through a large punitive damages award that would capture the attention of company executives who didn’t attend the trial.
J&J and DePuy made the case during the trial that metal-on-metal was a viable, reasonable option for hip implants and that its Pinnacle Ultamet product was offered to help doctors choose the device that best fit their patients. The companies said the metal-on-metal implant was developed to solve a bone degradation problem with an existing polyethylene hip implant on the market and denied putting profits above patient safety and long-term results.
In a closing statement, defense counsel Steve Quattlebaum of Quattlebaum Grooms & Tull PLLC
said the plaintiffs had made an emotional appeal and told a good story but that their allegations were not backed up by evidence or science. Quattlebaum said there’s no evidence the surgeons who treated the six plaintiffs relied on or even saw the 99 percent statistic when choosing which kind of implant to use and said there’s no evidence the plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by the product specifications the plaintiffs had complained about during the trial.
The plaintiffs are represented by Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm, Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy
, Richard Arsenault of Neblett Beard & Arsenault
and Wayne Fisher of Fisher Boyd Johnson & Huguenard LLP
The defendants are represented by John H. Beisner, Stephen J. Harburg and Jessica Davidson Miller of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP
, Steven W. Quattlebaum of Quattlebaum Grooms & Tull PLLC and Tracie J. Renfroe of King & Spalding LLP
The consolidated cases are Alicea et al. v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. et al., case number 3:15-cv-03489
; Barzel v. DePuy et al., case number 3:16-cv-01245; Kirschner v. DePuy et al., case number 3:16-cv-01526; Miura v. DePuy et al., case number 3:13-cv-04119; Stevens v. DePuy et al., case number 3:14-cv-01776; and Stevens v. DePuy et al., case number 3:14-cv-02341, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas