The fourth bellwether trial of DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement lawsuit has been postponed until September 18th, after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit requested that the trial be delayed due to a “grave error.”
The trial was to have begun on September 5th, and was to involve eight plaintiffs from New York.
On August 23rd, the Fifth Circuit panel denied Johnson & Johnson’s and DePuy Orthopaedics’ petition for writ of mandamus, which sought to halt the upcoming trial. However, two of the three panel members found that the judge proceeding over the consolidated DePuy Pinnacle litigation in Texas had wrongly allowed certain trials to take place before him, including the one that was scheduled to begin yesterday.
On September 1st, U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade of the Northern District of Texas issued an Order delaying the next DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement trial until September 18, 2017.
The multidistrict litigation underway in the Northern District of Texas currently houses more than 9,000 hip replacement lawsuits involving a metal-on-metal version of DePuy Orthopedics’ Pinnacle hip system that utilizes the Ultamet liner. Plaintiffs involved in the proceeding claim that this configuration is defectively designed, as it may shed dangerous amounts of toxic metal into the joint surround the hip, as well as the blood stream. This has the potential to cause adverse local tissue reactions, metallosis, pseudotumor formation, and other complications that necessitate the need for revision surgery to replace the joint.
So far, the federal Pinnacle hip litigation has convened three bellwether trials. The first concluded in October 2014, with a verdict for DePuy and Johnson & Johnson
In March 2016, five plaintiffs were awarded a total of $500 million at the conclusion of the second DePuy Pinnacle trial. 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.
In January 2013, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned that metal-on-metal hip replacements were associated with higher rates of early failure compared to those constructed from other materials. Last year, the FDA finalized a new regulation requiring the manufacturers of two types of metal-on-metal hips to submit a premarket approval (PMA) application if they wanted to continue marketing their current devices and/or market a new implant.
In August 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics announced a recall of its ASR metal-on-metal hip replacement system, after data indicated the hips were associated with a higher-than-expected rate of premature failure. Plaintiffs who have filed Pinnacle hip lawsuits question why the company has not taken similar action in regards to the Pinnacle/Ultamet liner combination.
In May 2013, DePuy Orthopaedics did announce that it would phase out metal-on-metal hip implants, including the device named in Pinnacle hip replacement lawsuits. According to The New York Times, the company cited slowing sales, as well as the FDA’s changing regulatory stance on all-metal hip implants, as factors in its decision. However, DePuy has never announced a Pinnacle hip replacement recall.