Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)’s DePuy unit defectively designed a metal-on-metal hip implant, a California jury decided in the first of 10,750 lawsuits over the device to go to trial.
The Los Angeles jury awarded a total of $8.3 million in damages to Loren “Bill” Kransky, a retired Montana prison guard who alleged DePuy’s design of its ASR hip caused his injuries. Jurors said J&J was negligent even though the company properly warned of the risks, and didn’t owe punitive damages.
J&J, the world’s largest seller of health-care products, recalled 93,000 of the implants in August 2010, when it said 12 percent failed within five years. Last year, 44 percent failed in Australia within seven years. Analysts say the lawsuits could cost J&J billions of dollars to resolve.
“This is not an imperfect hip, this is a public health disaster,” Kransky’s attorney Michael Kelly said in closing arguments on Feb. 28. “Somebody needs to tell them, ‘Don’t make Bill Kransky come to court. Build these things right. Don’t let this happen again.’”
Patients such as Kransky complain in lawsuits of dislocations, pain, and follow-up surgeries known as revisions. Kransky’s lawyers argued that DePuy failed to test the device adequately before selling it in the U.S. in 2005, buried surgeon complaints of mounting failures, and studied a redesign of the ASR before scrapping that effort in 2008.
Kransky’s lawyer Brian Panish had asked for compensatory damages of $5.3 million and punitive damages of as much as $179 million. The jury’s verdict, which came on the sixth day of deliberations, included $338,136 in damages for medical expenses and $8 million for physical pain and emotional suffering.
“This is the first day of reckoning for DePuy,” Panish said after the verdict. “We’ve learned a lot from this trial. We’ll get punitive damages in the next trial.”
One juror, David Vega, said after the verdict that “I wanted punitive damages” based on the evidence that DePuy found the problem and took so long to resolve it.
J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, says the ASR isn’t defective and the company adequately warned doctors of the risk of injury.
“We believe the ASR XL was properly designed, and that DePuy’s actions concerning the product were appropriate and responsible,” Lorie Gawreluk, a spokeswoman for DePuy, said in a statement. “We plan to appeal the jury’s decision on design defect depending the outcome of post-trial motions.”
At trial, J&J’s attorneys emphasized the health problems of Kransky, a Montana man who had his ASR implanted in December 2007 and removed in February 2012.
Kransky’s “diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, vascular disease and his many other health problems are unrelated” to his hip, J&J’s attorney Michael Zellers said in his summation.
“The evidence is clear that Mr. Kransky’s injuries were not caused by a defect in the ASR XL hip or by any conduct of DePuy,” Zellers said. “This case is just about Mr. Kransky and what caused his ASR XL to be replaced. It’s not a case about a recall. It’s not about revision rates.”
The case is Kransky v. DePuy, BC456086, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County (Los Angeles).