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While facing more than 10,000 hip replacement lawsuits over the DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal implant, Johnson & Johnson is asking an appeals court to overturn a massive verdict returned in one of the first cases to go before a jury, and seeking to prevent juries from hearing certain evidence at trial.
The appeal comes after a Texas jury ordered the company to pay more than $500 million in damages in five separate claims, including a combined $140 million in compensatory damages and another $360 million in punitive damages designed to punish the manufacturer for recklessly disregarding the safety of consumers.
Although the trial judge subsequently reduced the award to $151 million under Texas state damage caps, Johnson & Johnson is seeking to have the entire verdict tossed out, arguing that there is insufficient evidence to establish that the Pinnacle hip replacement system was defectively designed and marketed.
Attorneys for Johnson & Johnson also argue that the jury in that case was prejudiced when U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, who is presiding over all DePuy Pinnacle lawsuits, admitted certain evidence regarding the company’s alleged wrongdoings. The appeal complains that the jury was told of an $80 million settlement in 2011, for bribing European doctors to implant the company’s joint replacement systems, and that the jury was allowed to hear evidence that suggested the company paid kickbacks to individuals who worked for Saddam Hussein.
The outcome of the appeal could have a major impact on more than 10,000 product liability lawsuits pending over DePuy Pinnacle complications, which are all currently centralized before Judge Kinkeade in the Northern District of Texas as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
In addition to the $500 million verdict at issue in the appeal, which was returned in March 2016, other juries have awarded a combined total of more than $1 billion in a combined trial involving six cases in December 2016, and $247 million in another trial last month.
While additional bellwether trials have been scheduled before Judge Kinkeade, Johnson & Johnson is pushing the Court to start remanding thousands of cases back to individual U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates, indicating that it has no intention of negotiating hip replacement settlements for individuals who have experienced problems with DePuy Pinnacle implants.
Flooding the federal court system with a need to schedule more than 10,000 individual trials could be daunting, as there are typically under 12,000 completed trials in all U.S. District Courts each year; including both civil and criminal trials.
Johnson & Johnson previously agreed to pay more than $2.4 billion to settle DePuy ASR metal hip lawsuits, which was a recalled hip system based on the design of the DePuy Pinnacle metal hip. However, the manufacturer has refused to settle DePuy Pinnacle cases.