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Following years of litigation over problems with the metal-on-metal hip replacements, and a series of massive jury verdicts in early “bellwether” trials, plaintiffs are asking for DePuy Pinnacle hip lawsuits to start being remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates.
There are currently more than 9,600 product liability complaints pending in a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), which was established in 2011 for all claims over health problems and catastrophic implant failures linked to the metal-on-metal DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement system.
Given similar questions of fact and law, the cases have been centralized for discovery and coordinated pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade in the Northern District of Texas, who has already presided over a number of early trial dates that were held to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
Each of the hip replacement lawsuits allege that the DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal implant was defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous, causing the release of metallic debris that may result in failure of the artificial hip system.
Following a series of bellwether trials, and a similar request by Johnson & Johnson in August 2017, the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and lead counsels filed an omnibus motion (PDF) on February 5, calling for the orderly remand of claims back to the districts where they originated, so that individual trial dates can be set, or resolutions can be reached a case-by-case basis.
The motion calls for the Court to order each side to select 10 appropriate cases each to be remanded to courts in California, New York and Texas, for a total of 60 trials. The motion indicates that cases can be quickly remanded and prepared for trial in those district courts.
Plaintiffs previously called for a similar staggered remand in July 2017.
The recent request comes following a number of large verdicts for plaintiffs in bellwether trials, yet lack of any progress with the manufacturer negotiating hip replacement settlements to resolve cases.
In December 2016, Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopaedics subsidiary were hit with a staggering $1 billion verdict in a bellwether trial involving six plaintiffs. While the damages were later reduced to about $500 million, the verdict came after another jury award of $500 million for five plaintiffs in March 2016, which was later reduced to $151 million under Texas state damage caps. A plaintiff won $247 million in another trial last November.
While additional bellwether trials have been scheduled before Judge Kinkeade, Johnson & Johnson has indicated that it has no intention of settling cases 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 over the coming months and years 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 similar metal-on-metal hip system that was based on the DePuy Pinnacle design, yet recalled from the market a few years after it was introduced.