As reported in our article about the second bellwether trial involving an allegedly defective metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip implant, $360 million of the $497.6 million verdict rendered in March to five plaintiffs against Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy unit was awarded as punitive damages. As predicted, the trial judge – United States District Judge Ed Kinkeade in the Northern District of Texas – reduced the punitive damages verdict from $360 million to $10 million pursuant to a Texas cap on punitive damages. The collective award is now $137.6 million in compensatory and $10 million in punitive damages.
Importantly for victims of defective DePuy Pinnacle hip implants, Judge Kinkeade also denied Johnson & Johnson’s motions to set aside the verdict and order a new trial. J&J and DePuy face about 8,400 lawsuits over the Pinnacle implants, and the bellwether trial system is typically the best way for both sides to evaluate the cases for purposes of a global settlement. J&J/DePuy won the first bellwether trial. These multiple lawsuits allege that friction between the metal-on-metal device’s components causes ions to enter the bloodstream leading to high levels of metal in the blood (metallosis), tissue death, and bone erosion, among other problems. As a result, many Pinnacle hip implant patients have had to have their hip implants removed and replaced prematurely. These devices were marketed to last up to 30 years.
J&J has appealed the bellwether verdict and continues to deny any wrongdoing in connection with the Pinnacle hip implant. DePuy stopped selling the metal-on-metal version of the Pinnacle implant in 2013, the same year it paid $2.5 billion to settle more than 7,000 lawsuits involving its ASR metal-on-metal hip implant. The ASR was recalled in 2010.
A third bellwether trial (also involving multiple plaintiffs) is scheduled to begin in September. The second trial took two months.