On January 8, 2016, the second DePuy Pinnacle bellwether trial began in federal court in Dallas, Texas. The claims of five plaintiffs were consolidated and presented in one proceeding against DePuy Orthopedics, Inc. (DePuy) and Johnson & Johnson with Judge Ed Kinkeade presiding. Plaintiffs were represented by a lead counsel, Mark Lanier, Richard Arsenault, Wayne Fisher and their impressive team. Plaintiffs, Margaret Aoki, Jay Christopher, Donald Greer, Richard Klusmann and Robert Peterson were all implanted with Pinnacle Ultamet metal-on-metal hips that failed and had to be surgically removed. Plaintiffs’ DePuy Pinnacle artificial hip devices failed prematurely resulting in pain, cobalt and chromium in their bloodstreams, metallosis, among other damages and therefore the devices had to be surgically removed. Despite knowing of the dangers associated with the DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hips, Johnson & Johnson and DePuy officials continued to aggressively market the artificial hips in the United States and throughout the world. The companies negligently and fraudulently systematically covered-up the defects in the devices and proceeded with their aggressive marketing efforts, putting profits over the health and safety of consumers.
Following a 10-week trial, the jury returned a verdict on March 17, 2016 finding Johnson & Johnson and DePuy guilty and ordering the companies to pay over $502 million combined to the five plaintiffs for the companies’ negligent and fraudulent conduct designed to amass huge profits. For all five plaintiffs, the jury found:
- There was a design defect in the Pinnacle Ultamet Hip Implant at the time it left the possession of DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. that was a producing cause of the plaintiffs’ injuries.
- There was a defect in the warnings at the time the Pinnacle Ultamet Hip Implant left the possession of DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. that was a producing cause of the injuries to plaintiffs.
- Johnson & Johnson was engaged in the business of selling the Pinnacle Ultamet Hip Implant.
- Johnson & Johnson participated in the design of the Pinnacle Ultamet Hip Implant.
- Johnson & Johnson negligently undertook a duty to provide services to DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. that proximately caused the injuries of all five plaintiffs.
- Johnson & Johnson knowingly gave substantial assistance or encouragement to the tortious conduct of DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., related to the Pinnacle Ultamet Hip Implant and such assistance or encouragement was a substantial factor in causing injury to all plaintiffs.
For Plaintiff Margaret Aoki, the jury determined Johnson & Johnson knew of the defect(s) that resulted in harm to Ms. Aoki at the time Johnson & Johnson supplied the Pinnacle Ultamet Hip Implant to Ms. Aoki. The jury awarded the plaintiffs a combined amount of more than $142 million in compensatory damages. The jury also found clear and convincing evidence that the harm to all five plaintiffs resulted from gross negligence and fraud by Johnson & Johnson and DePuy. “Gross negligence” means an act or omission by the companies which when viewed objectively from the standpoint of the companies at the time of its occurrence involves an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others; and of which the companies have actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceed with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others. The jury awarded punitive damages in the combined amount of $360 million to penalize, punish and make an example of Johnson & Johnson and DePuy for their deplorable conduct. The total combined jury award was more than $502,043,905. Despite the jury’s verdict, DePuy continues to fail to accept responsibility for its actions. According to Bloomberg Business, a DePuy spokeswoman has said in an e-mailed statement that the company “acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing” of the devices and that “the product is backed by a strong record of safety and effectiveness in reducing pain and restoring mobility for patients.” As of March 2016 there are approximately 8,000 lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson and DePuy resulting from the failed DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hips. Paoli Law Firm represents clients against DePuy and Johnson & Johnson arising out of the defective Pinnacle Ultament metal-on-metal system.