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Johnson & Johnson has agreed to settle more than 3,000 product liability lawsuits being pursued over problems with DePuy Pinnacle hip replacements, resolving about one-third of the litigation pending nationwide.
Over the past eight years, the company has been fighting claims that allege the metal-on-metal implant was defectively designed and prone to fail, resulting for individuals to undergo risky revision surgery.
There are currently more than 10,000 complaints brought by individuals nationwide who have experienced complications with a DePuy Pinnacle hip. The federal cases are centralized before U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade in the Northern District of Texas, as part of an MDL (multidistrict litigation) established in 2011.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, a number of “bellwether” trials have gone before juries in recent years, with several resulting in massive damage awards of several hundred million dollars.
Although separate juries have reached similar large verdicts after considering evidence in the cases, Johnson & Johnson has previously maintained that it would not settle DePuy Pinnacle hip cases, and intended to defend the litigation. However, it appears that position has now changed.
In a court order (PDF) issued on December 9, Judge Kinkeade indicates that large numbers of cases have been settling rapidly over the past few weeks.
“Beginning on November 21,2018, the Defendants began informing the Court that at least 3,000 of the over 10,000 cases pending in this MDL were subject to confidential inventory settlements with select plaintiff attorneys,” Judge Kinkeade noted in the filing. “The Defendants also inform the Court that settlement proceeds will be distributed as early as December 10, 2018, and have contacted the District Clerk to make arrangements to deposit funds into the Court’s registry.”
According to a report by Bloomberg News this week, sources familiar with the deal indicate Johnson & Johnson had agreed to pay more than $400 million to settle the cases, resulting in an average of $125,000 per claim.
Johnson & Johnson was reportedly trying to settle the cases before the next Pinnacle trial begins in January, which is supposed to involve five individual plaintiffs whose hip implants failed. In addition, Judge Kinkeade was expected to start remanding large numbers of cases back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates if a resolution was not reached.
Late last year, a jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay six plaintiffs $247 million in damages. That verdict came after a $500 million jury award in March 2016 and a $1 billion award in December 2016. While the first award was later reduced to about $500 million, and the second award was reduced to $151 million under Texas state damage caps, the staggering verdicts provided a clear signal about how juries may respond if similar cases went to trial in the future..
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.