Johnson & Johnson is considering a settlement with injured hip implant patients that could total more than $3 billion. Sources close to the matter have told Bloomberg that the company is weighing their options in settling thousands of cases involving DePuy hip implants that have been linked to early failure rates and a host of serious complications.
Thousands of lawsuits pending against manufacturer
The hip implant manufacturer is facing more than 11,500 lawsuits in the United States. The complaints were filed by plaintiffs who claim their DePuy hip implants led to ongoing pain and reduced mobility. Some have alleged metal exposure, as the metal components in the hip implant rubbed together and released metal ions into surrounding tissue and the bloodstream. Another common complaint is that the hip implants failed early and resulted in the need for risky revision surgery.
If Johnson & Johnson follows through with the settlement, it would be the largest involving hip implants to date. In 2001, Swedish-based Sulzer agreed to a $1 billion settlement for patients that accused the manufacturer of producing defective hip and knee implants. Johnson & Johnson’s settlement amount would calculate out to around $300,000 per injured plaintiff currently awaiting trial. Recall expenses for the ASR hip replacement system have already cost the company more than $993 million.
Early trials may set tone for settlement negotiations
Currently, the company has seven early trials pending against them, scheduled between September, 2013, and January, 2014. A settlement may be contingent on the outcome of those trials. Another trial that took place in a California court in March could also impact the company’s willingness to offer a settlement. In that trial, the jury awarded Loren Kransky $338,000 for medical bills and another $8 million as compensation for pain and suffering. Although Johnson & Johnson appealed, a California judge upheld the jury’s decision.
As the number of lawsuits against DePuy and Johnson & Johnson continued to rise, federal lawsuits were coordinated into multidistrict litigation. Multidistrict litigation is assigned when there are many similar complaints filed against a single defendant, to make early trial proceedings more efficient and prevent duplication and conflicting rulings. Currently, there are more than 8,200 cases pending in multidistrict litigation assigned to the Northern District of Ohio, where they are overseen by the Honorable Judge David A. Katz.
First bellwether trial faces delays
A number of cases have been identified by Judge Katz as bellwether trials within the federal MDL. These cases serve as a type of litmus test to indicate how juries will respond to testimony and evidence. The first bellwether trial, a lawsuit filed by plaintiff Ann McCracken, was scheduled to begin in September, 2013. However, the date of that trial has been delayed, due to scheduling conflicts with export witnesses. Judge Katz has said the trial will be rescheduled within the next 90 days.
In the meantime, Johnson & Johnson appears to be weighing their strategy for a settlement negotiation. There are still several obstacles in negotiating a final settlement, including the number of years the company may have to pay claims. Injured hip implant patients continue to file lawsuits against the company as they experience implant failure and other complications. In addition, some severely injured plaintiffs may be entitled to much more than $300,000, given the nature of their injuries and their ongoing suffering.
Authored by Jacky Gale
For the last several years, Jacky Gale has written for pharmaceutical litigation firms, exposing the dangers of medical devices and prescription drugs. You can read more about of her work on DePuy hip implants here.