Metal Hip Implant Results in $8.3M Verdict

Depuy Orthopedics, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, has been ordered to pay over $8.3 million in damages to a man from Montana who bought a lawsuit against the company in connection with a metal hip implant also known as the Articular Surface Replacement (ASR).

The jury in a Los Angeles State Court ordered Johnsons & Johnson to pay retired prison guard Loren Kransky from Montana $338 000 to cover his medical expenses and $8million for his pain and emotional suffering. The 12 member jury however stopped short of issuing punitive damages stating that that the company did not act with malice when marketing the metal hip implant.

There are over 10,000 lawsuits pending for A.S.R which has been recalled since mid 2010. A subsequent lawsuit is set to take place shortly in Chicago with several other cases scheduled for later in 2013. Lawyers have indicated that the pending suits could cost Johnson & Johnson several millions of dollars to settle.

The company in issuing a statement following the verdict, has indicated however that it intends to appeal the damage award and disagreed with the jury’s findings that the A.S.R. design was flawed.

Documents that became public during the trial showed that company executives were informed by surgeons, consultants to the maker of the device that the design of the A.S.R was defective. Furthermore, surgeons also advised that sales for the implant should be slowed or stopped. Evidence from the trial also showed that Johnson and Johnson contemplated redesigning the A.S.R. but then aborted the project since the sales of the implants did not support the redesign costs.
In the case, evidence was also presented that showed that Johnson & Johnson considered redesigning the A.S.R. to reduce its problems, but then abandoned the project because the implant’s sales did not justify the costs of the redesign.

The A.S.R. is part of a category of hip replacements where the components of the device (cup and ball) are metal. It was first used in the United States in 2005 for routine hip replacements. However, when the patient moved the cup and ball design rubbed against each other causing pieces of metallic debris to come loose. The debris caused tissue and bone to become inflamed causing pain and in some cases permanent damage to the patient.

Metal hip implants are rarely used currently and while most models suffer from similar problems, data showed that A.S.R. was far worse than the other products. Further documents showed that almost 40 per cent of patients who had the A.S.R. device implant would need at least a second operation within the next five years to have the implant remove or replaced. Traditional hip implants made of plastic and metal are expected to last at least 15 years.

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