Johnson & Johnson Wants Judge Removed from Upcoming DePuy Pinnacle Hip Lawsuit Trial

Published on August 21, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

Johnson & Johnson is attempting to prevent a federal judge from presiding over the next bellwether trial of a DePuy Pinnacle hip lawsuit. In a petition recently filed with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the company asserted that U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade only has authority to oversee Pinnacle hip trials that involve Texas residents.

The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, is home to a multidistrict litigation involving more than 9,000 hip implant lawsuits, all of which cite a version of DePuy Orthopaedics’ Pinnacle Hip Replacement System that utilizes the Ultamet liner. Plaintiffs with claims pending in the proceeding allege that the metal-on-metal design created by this configuration causes the implant to shed toxic metal ions that accumulate in in the tissue surrounding the hip, as well as the blood stream. This has the potential to cause metallosis, pseudotumors and other complications that necessitate the need for revision surgery to remove and replace the hip implant.

According to the Southeast Texas Record, the federal litigation is scheduled to convene its fourth trial on September 5th. As a bellwether trial, the verdict in this case is expected to provide some insight into how juries might decide similar Pinnacle hip replacement lawsuits.

This upcoming trial will involve nine plaintiffs from New York. This is the third time Johnson & Johnson and has tried to prevent Judge Kinkeade from presiding over a Pinnacle trial.

Thus far, the companies have prevailed in just one of the three Pinnacle trials overseen by Judge Kinkeade. That win came in the litigation’s first bellwether trial, which concluded in October 2014.

A second bellwether case wrapped up in March 2016, when five plaintiffs were awarded a total of $500 million. However, the judge overseeing the case ultimately reduced that award to $151 million, in order to comply with Texas law governing punitive damages.

The litigation’s third trial ended in December 2016, when six Pinnacle recipients were awarded more than $1 billion. That judgment was later reduced to $543 million.

Metal-on-Metal Hip Complications

In January 2013, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warned that metal-on-metal hips were associated with higher rates of early failure compared to hips with alternative configurations. The agency also warned that the metal ions shed from all-metal hips will enter the bloodstream and eventually cause symptoms or illnesses elsewhere in the body.

In August 2010, Johnson & Johnson and DePuy Orthopaedics recalled metal-on-metal ASR hip replacements after those devices were linked to an unacceptable rate of premature failure. Plaintiffs who have filed Pinnacle hip lawsuits claim that the all-metal version suffers from many of the same problems that plagued ASR hips, and question why the defendants never enacted a similar Pinnacle hip recall.

In 2013, Johnson & Johnson announced a $2.5 billion DePuy hip replacement settlement to resolve thousands of product liability claims stemming from the ASR hip recall.

In May 2011, DePuy Orthopaedics announced that it would phase out metal-on-metal hip implants, including the device named in Pinnacle hip lawsuits. According to The New York Times, the company cited slowing sales, as well as the FDA’s move to subject such implants to greater regulatory oversight, as factors in its decision.

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