I have written extensively about the current trial underway in Los Angeles state court involving the DePuy ASR hip and now I am providing this trial update. According to the plaintiff at the first of 10,750 lawsuits over the recalled hip implant to go to trial, it was Johnson & Johnson’s relentless pursuit of profit that led the multibillion dollar company to sell a defective DePuy ASR metal-on-metal hip that failed faster than any similar device.
Jurors in Los Angeles heard closing arguments that J&J’s DePuy unit defectively designed its ASR hip and failed to warn of the risks. Plaintiff Kransky’s attorney Brian Panish asked for compensatory damages of $5.3 million and punitive damages of as much as $179 million.
Broken Promises and Broken Hearts
J&J, failed patients before its recall of 93,000 ASR hips in August 2010, according to J&J’s DePuy unit 12 percent failed within five years, requiring follow-up revision surgeries. The rate rose to 44 percent in Australia last year.
Panish argued “That design was defective from the first day they put it out” in trial that began January 25. “It was beyond what any hip had ever done to anyone in the history of the world. It’s not even close.”
J&J, based in New Jersey, denies that it defectively designed the device or failed to warn of the risks associated with it.
What caused the Injury?
J&J attorneys denied claims by Kransky that the tissue around his hip was damaged because the device, made of chromium and cobalt, shed metal ions.
Kransky testified that he believed the debris was poisoning him, and he feared the revision because he thought it would kill him. Records show his metals level was eight times higher than the level DePuy considered acceptable.
Defense Claims Hip Infection
J&J attorneys said Kransky’s revision came after his hip grew infected, not because of problems with the ASR. “Mr. Kransky had an infected hip, that caused him pain, that pain caused the revision.”
Compensatory and Punitive Damages
Panish asked jurors to award Kransky $338,000 for his medical expenses and $5 million for his pain and suffering. Jurors also should impose punitive damages of $72 million to $179 million on DePuy, or 2 percent to 5 percent of the company’s value.
According to Panish, “This is a company that needs a solid message sent to them, nobody has ever accepted responsibility from DePuy. For a company in today’s world to do this to patients unfortunately, it happens because the money corrupts. They don’t have a soul.”
The plaintiff alleged that J&J failed to test the ASR adequately before it was sold in the U.S. in 2005, and ignored reports by leading surgeons of mounting patient complaints.
Metal Ball, Metal Cup is the Root of the Problem
The DePuy ASR hip device consists of a metal cup in the pelvic part of the hip and a metal ball on top of the femur or hip bone that rotated inside the cup. Kransky alleged that DePuy failed to test the cup at any angle other than the optimum one of 45 degrees. According to experts that the steeper the angle, the greater the amount of metal debris that was released by the grinding action of the ball in the socket leading to metal toxicity or metallosis.
DePuy ASR Recall
J&J attorneys told jurors that complaints about the hip jumped after the recall, and not because it was defective. “When the recall occurred,” he said, “there were many, many, many complaints related to the ASR. That’s understandable. There was a lot of publicity. There was worry by patients.”
According to Panish, rather than come clean, DePuy “chose to obfuscate and cover the truth, this is a big deal because there are a lot of people who have been affected by it. And they’ve got to stop it.”
DePuy ASR Lawsuit Allegations
There are over 10,000 DePuy ASR lawsuits filed in US courts and the majority of them have been consolidated for pretrial multidistrict litigation in the US district court for the Northern District of Ohio.The plaintiffs allege that the DePuy ASR metal on metal hips caused them severe pain or immobilized by joint dislocations, infections and bone fractures. Plaintiffs also claim high levels of cobalt and chromium ions from grinding action of the 2 metal surfaces on the devices.