Recently, a federal jury in Dallas, Texas ordered Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, DePuy Orthopaedics, to pay more than $1 billion to six plaintiffs in the third bellwether trial of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) over the DePuy Pinnacle artificial hip—a metal-on-metal medical device that has allegedly failed prematurely within many patients as well as cause substantial other problems that include muscle damage and metal toxicity.
This ruling follows less than a year after another Dallas jury dictated a payout of over $500 million to five plaintiffs in the second bellwether trial that concluded in March 2016. Of that amount, the court ordered that $140 million would go toward collective compensatory damages with $360 million being awarded in punitive damages. In comparison, the most recent ruling awarded $30 million in actual damages and more than $1 billion in punitive damages—making this the largest punitive award by a jury for 2016.
In both of the more recent bellwether cases, Johnson & Johnson has faced claims of negligence in product design as well as the failure to warn both doctors and patients of product risks. In both instances, the Defendant has staunchly stood by their claims that the medical device was properly designed and tested and plans to appeal recent verdicts.
While Johnson & Johnson’s strategy of settlement avoidance is not a new one for the healthcare conglomerate, it could prove costly to the multinational manufacturer of medical devices this time around as close to 9,000 more lawsuits are currently waiting in the wings. This latest ruling definitely appears to be the proverbial shot across their bow—as if the jury is providing a warning to J&J as to what might await them if they choose to continue with this approach. Although the Defendants won the first bellwether case in 2014, other rulings this year haven’t gone as well for parent-company Johnson & Johnson—as this makes the fifth hard-hitting verdict for the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company in 2016.
Following the jury’s verdict in the latest court proceedings, lead attorney Mark Lanier of the Lanier Law Firm in Houston called Johnson & Johnson’s actions into question; stating that a responsible company would settle the cases and take care of their injured consumers rather than forcing them through expensive and vexatious litigation. Considering the Defendant’s action as a delay of justice, Lanier summed up his feelings on the MDL by saying, “This jury spoke loud and clear, and I hope J&J will finally listen.”
Derek T. Braslow is a partner of Pogust Braslow & Millrood, LLC. He is one of the first attorneys to file suit on behalf of families who lost a child, spouse or parent to suicide as a result of psychotropic medication and one of the first to file a suit against investigators, sponsors and institutional review boards for conducting unethical human clinical trials. Derek was voted by his colleagues as a Rising Star and SuperLawyer in the area of Pharmaceutical and Mass Tort litigation.