Johnson & Johnson must pay $502 million over hip devices

A federal jury decided Thursday that Johnson & Johnson must pay five Texans $502 million for injuries caused by defective hip replacement devices. The outcome could affect how similar cases filed by another 7,000 plaintiffs are resolved.

The lawsuits allege that Pinnacle Ultamet metal-on-metal hip replacements, made by Johnson & Johnson's DePuy Orthopaedics, spread metal debris into their bloodstreams, causing major injuries that sometimes required further surgery.

The device was designed to relieve pain and provide a smooth range of motion for people with damaged or diseased hip joints.

The five cases decided Thursday were consolidated and chosen to go to trial as so-called “bellwether” cases meant to help test the waters and guide possible future settlements.

DePuy said it will appeal the verdict in a statement Thursday. The company has denied that the devices are defective.

“DePuy acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing of ULTAMET Metal-on-Metal, and the product is backed by a strong record of safety and effectiveness in reducing pain and restoring mobility for patients suffering from chronic hip pain,” DePuy spokeswoman Mindy Tinsley said in the statement.

DePuy was victorious in a 2014 federal trial over the same device.

The decision Thursday came after 37 days of testimony in a federal district court in Texas.

The jury found that the devices were defective, that the company didn't adequately warn doctors about the product's dangers, and that the injuries were a result of gross negligence and fraud by DePuy and Johnson & Johnson.

The devices have not been recalled. In 2013, Johnson & Johnson announced it would pay $2.5 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits over a different line of failed metal-on-metal hip implants.

Lisa Schencker

Lisa Schencker covers legal issues and enforcement agencies. Before joining Modern Healthcare in 2014, she was an education reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune and before that wrote for the Bakersfield Californian and the Scranton (Pa.) Times-Tribune. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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