First Depuy hip replacement lawsuit goes to trial

Metal-on-metal hip replacement systems were marketed throughout Massachusetts and the rest of the United States for years as a more durable alternative to traditional types of implants. However, some of these metal-on-metal implants manufactured by Depuy, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, were recalled two years ago after they were determined to be dangerous.

In the wake of the recalls, thousands of lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson by people who suffered injuries as a result of the faulty hip replacements. Last week, the first of such cases went to trial in California. In their opening statement, lawyers for the plaintiff told the jury that Johnson & Johnson knew the all-metal ball-and-socket hip was dangerous but marketed it anyway.

The plaintiff in the case is a former prison guard who sought a hip replacement to ease arthritis pain. After receiving metal-on-metal hip implant in 2007 he eventually needed a replacement. During that surgery, pictures were captured that show black material in the man’s hip socket that had flaked off of the hip implant. A doctor testified that he feared the man would have died if this material had not been removed.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuits offer similar stories. Others report suffering infection, inflammation, muscle damage, tendon damage or nerve damage as a result of the faulty implants. The implants were sold for eight years in the United States to around 35,000 people before Johnson & Johnson stopped manufacturing the products in 2009 and recalled them in 2010.

However, attorneys for the plaintiffs believe officials at Johnson & Johnson knew that the implants were faulty much sooner. Court documents reveal that the officials knew of problems at least as early as 2008. Johnson & Johnson has already set aside about $1 billion to pay for the recalls and the litigation. The question is, will it be enough?

Source: CBS News, “Trial over metal hip replacements begins in LA,” Jan. 28, 2013