Judge Chops $1 Billion Verdict in Half in Defective DePuy Hip Case

DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip
DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip

Ruling that punitive damages cannot be more than 10 times a plaintiff’s actual damages, US District Judge Ed Kinkeade in Texas chopped in half a Dec. 1 verdict of $1.04 billion against  Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopaedics unit.

Both sides said they would appeal. The plaintiffs’ attorneys include W. Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm, Richard Arsenault of Neblett Beard & Arsenault, Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC and Khaldoun Baghdadi of Walkup Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger

Still facing 8,707 lawsuits

The case is one of 8,707 actions consolidated before Judge James Edgar Kinkeade in MDL 2244, In re DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, Case No. 3:11-md-02244, in the Northern District of Texas in Dallas.

Jurors found that J&J and DePuy had negligently designed the hip implant, failed to warn surgeons about dangerous conditions related to the implant, and concealed its risks. J&J stopped selling the devices in 2013 after the FDA issued a safety communication about artificial-hip danges.

Separately, DuPuy is facing 1,458 product liability actions consolidated before US District Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick in MDL 2197, In re: DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., ASR Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation in Toledo, Ohio.

J&J prevailed in the first Pinnacle hip case to go to trial in October 2014 after a jury rejected a Montana woman’s claims that the devices were defective and gave her metal poisoning. In March 2016, a Dallas jury ordered J&J to pay $502 million to a group of five patients who accused the company of hiding defects in the hips. A judge cut that verdict in July to about $150 million.

Single-digit ratio

The jury had awarded $168 million in punitive damages to each of six plaintiffs. In halving the $1 billion total verdict, the judge cited the US Supreme Court ruling in State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 425 (2003), saying that “[F]ew awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process.”

The ruling came in six individual judgments:

  • Andrews v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., case number 3:15-cv-03484
  • Davis v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., case number 3:15-cv-01767
  • Metzler v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., case number 3:12-cv-02066
  • Rodriguez v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., case number 3:13-cv-03938
  • Standerfer v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., case number 3:14-cv-01730
  • Weiser v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. et al., case number 3:13-cv-03631.

The judge did not disturb $4 million and $6 million in compensatory damage awards.


Larry Bodine

Attorney Larry Bodine is Editor of Mass Tort Nexus, and the Editor of The National Trial Lawyers. He is the former Editor in Chief of Lawyers.com and the American Bar Association Journal. He is a cum laude graduate of both Seton Hall University Law School and Amherst College.

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