In the first of thousands of lawsuits involving Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics unit’s Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implants, the jury sided with the Company, finding that the plaintiff’s injuries were the result of doctor error when inserted. This bellwether trial was only the first case of many. J&J still faces thousands of lawsuits alleging claims that its implants can fail, causing metallic debris to enter the bloodstream. The federal jury announced its decision on Thursday after an eight-week trial that began September 3. The next trial is slated for January.
In 2013, the company stopped selling the DePuy metal-on-metal Pinnacle devices. That same year, the Company agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle more than 7,000 lawsuits over the ASR metal-on-metal hip implants, which the Company recalled in 2010.
While J&J won this first battle, the war is far from over. “We lost the first skirmish in a long war,” said The Lanier Law Firm’s Mark Lanier, who represented the plaintiff. “We will fight on with renewed vigor,” he added.
While a bellwether trial is often considered a first hint at what future trials may look like, that is not always the case. Often the bellwether trials inform the future strategies and defense verdicts have been known to be followed by large damage awards. Almost 7,000 Pinnacle cases are still active. Each case remains individual, and each trial must turn on the specifics of each individual plaintiff’s experiences. In fact, the jury verdict in this case seems to have turned on J&J’s argument that the plaintiff’s Pinnacle hip injuries resulted from doctor error—a defense the company may not have, or may not be able to convince juries of, in other cases.