Juries rule differently in DePuy hip replacement lawsuits

The jury sided with Johnson & Johnson after a recent trial involving the company’s all-metal artificial hip product, which was recalled in 2010. The lawsuit accused Johnson & Johnson of inappropriately marketing the product, which was manufactured by the company’s DePuy Orthopaedics unit and known as the Articular Surface Replacement, or A.S.R.

The product was discovered to cause serious injuries and more than 10,000 lawsuits have been filed against the company since, arguing that Johnson & Johnson marketed the product even though company officials knew that it was dangerous. Many of the lawsuits have been consolidated into a large federal case in Ohio, but some of the cases are being tired individually.

Earlier this year, a Los Angeles jury awarded a plaintiff who had been injured by the faulty hip replacement $8.3 million in the first trial on the matter. However, last week, a Chicago jury sided with Johnson & Johnson. At this point, it is not clear how the two juries arrived at such different verdicts.

Officials from DePuy said in a statement that they had handled the sales, marketing and eventual recall of the product appropriately. However, internal documents revealed that the company knew that the product was defected long before they announced a recall.

The documents reveal that DePuy officials considered redesigning the product to improve the flawed design, but never told doctors or the public that there was a problem. The all-metal hip replacements were first sold by DePuy in the United States around 2005 as an alternative device to be used in regular hip replacement surgery.

But it was soon discovered that the design was defective because the ball and joint would scrape together, causing shards of metal to flake off into the body. The metal debris can enter nearby tissues and the blood stream, resulting in infection, inflammation, muscle damage, tendon damage and nerve damage. Heart failure, thyroid problems, blindness and cognitive impairment have also been named as complications.

Source: New York Times, “J.&J. Prevails in Defending Its Marketing of Hip Device,” Barry Meier, April 16, 2013