J&J Faces Second Trial Over Recalled Hip After Loss
By David Voreacos - Mar 11, 2013 12:00 AM ET
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)’s DePuy unit, which just lost a $8.3 million verdict in the first trial over its recalled metal hip implant, now faces a second jury that will consider whether the design was defective.
Jurors in Chicago will hear opening statements today about a lawsuit by Carol Strum, 54, an Illinois nurse who claims DePuy’s ASR hip was defective and the company failed to warn of risks. The case is the second of 10,750 lawsuits against J&J, the world’s largest seller of health-care products, to go to trial.
On March 8, a state court jury in Los Angeles concluded the ASR XL design was defective and caused injury to Loren “Bill” Kransky, a retired prison guard from Montana. Jurors awarded him $8.3 million in compensatory damages. The panel found DePuy properly warned of the risks and didn’t owe punitive damages to punish the company.
“We think this is an egregious situation of DePuy’s failure to take any action about a clear problem with the performance of its hip replacement system,” Strum attorney Peter J. Flowers said in an interview. “It’s the classic case of profits over safety.”
DePuy, a unit of New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J, denies it defectively designed the ASR or that it failed to warn of the risks. J&J 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.
“The company believes the evidence will show ASR XL was properly designed,” DePuy spokeswoman Lorie Gawreluk said in an e-mail. “The plaintiff’s physician was properly informed of the product’s known risks, and DePuy’s actions concerning the product were appropriate and responsible.”
Jurors in Los Angeles didn’t hear evidence about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s review and clearance of the ASR device, or the company’s recall. A similar model was first sold in Europe in 2003, and sales in the U.S. began in 2005. Jurors in the Chicago case will hear about the FDA review and recall.
“The product was thoroughly and appropriately reviewed by the FDA,” Gawreluk said.
Surgeons implanted a metal cup, made of a chromium and cobalt alloy, in the hip and a metal ball atop the femur that rotated inside the cup. Experts for Kransky in the Los Angeles trial said the defective design caused metal ions to shed into surrounding tissue.
Strum had her ASR implanted on Jan. 29, 2008. She later developed high levels of chromium and cobalt and had her hip replaced through a revision surgery on Jan. 6, 2011, according to her complaint.
Strum also is seeking punitive damages in the case. Jurors in the Kransky trial rejected a request for such damages, indicating “fraud or malice,” of as much as $179 million.
The case is Strum v. DePuy, 2011-L-9352, Circuit Court of Cook County (Chicago).
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