Johnson & Johnson has begun settling consumers’ claims that it sold artificial hips knowing they were defective, marking the first settlements in the seven-year-old litigation.
A federal judge in Texas overseeing the cases said about 3,300 of 10,000 “have settled or are in the process of settling,” according to a Dec. 9 court filing. Terms of the accords weren’t made public.
J&J is set to face a trial Jan. 14 in Dallas where five recipients of the Pinnacle hip will press claims that the world’s largest healthcare products company failed to warn customers about the devices’ risks. A similar 2016 case produced a $1 billion verdict for multiple plaintiffs.
Mindy Tinsley, a spokeswoman for J&J’s DePuy medical device unit, which made the hips, declined to comment on the settlements. Mike Papantonio, a lawyer representing hip patients, didn’t return a call seeking comment. Mark Lanier, another attorney for hip plaintiffs, declined to comment.
Over the last two years, juries in federal court in Dallas have ordered the company to pay at least $1.7 billion in damages over the hips. Several awards, including the one for $1 billion, were later reduced or thrown out on appeal.
The hip recipients argued DePuy officials rushed the Pinnacle hips to market with little testing and misled doctors about the device’s safety profile, assuring them there was little risk of metal poisoning or tissue damage. J&J has denied these claims and said it developed and marketed the hips responsibly.
The Pinnacle devices aren’t covered by New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J’s $2.5 billion settlement of claims over its ASR line of artificial hips. J&J recalled 93,000 of those implants worldwide in August 2010, saying 12 percent failed within five years.
The Pinnacle lawsuits have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade. Kinkeade, who has been overseeing the cases since 2011 and will preside over the Jan. 14 trial, said that instead of negotiating a global settlement, J&J is settling individual lawyers’ inventories of Pinnacle cases. The company is using the same tactic to resolve lawsuits over its vaginal mesh inserts.
“Defendants’ domino confidential settlements have left the court without necessary information about the total or projected value of settlement,” the judge wrote.
The information on the settlements came in an order by Kinkeade granting a request by plaintiffs to increase the amount of money reserved in all Pinnacle accords to cover the fees and expenses of lawyers who have been guiding the consolidated cases. The judge increased those holdbacks to 25 percent of each settlement to insure sufficient funds are available for those purposes.
The Pinnacle case is In Re DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, 11-md-2244, U.S District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
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