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California DePuy Hip Implant Cases in Court

The McClellan Law Firm


"Hip surgery is not perfect. No material to this very day has been proven to be perfect."

These were the uncomforting words spoken by the attorney representing DePuy Orthopedics Inc., in the first of many lawsuits against the company over its all-metal ball-and-socket hip joint. The California case alleges that Johnson & Johnson's subsidiary acted fraudulently and negligently in its development of the hip implants, which were taken off the market in 2010.

According to documents from the case, Johnson & Johnson may have even been aware there were problems with the DePuy hip implants in 2008, almost 2 full years before the issue was made public. Such knowledge would make them liable for thousands of patients suffering life-altering and debilitating injuries as a result of their product. Litigation spread nationwide, with an early case here in California.

More than a third of all DePuy all-metal ball-and-socket hip implants—40,000 of which were given to U.S. patients from 2005-2010—were expected to fail within 5 years, and 6% of hip implant patients would need surgery to fix them within that same amount of time. That’s 2,400 procedures and 13,000 failed implants.

Illinois’ & California’s DePuy Cases

The plaintiff in the California DePuy hip implant case is one of many people who believe their hip implants caused injury to them. Complications include infection, hip dislocation, misalignment, metal sensitivity and even bone fractures. However, despite the evidence mounting against DePuy and Johnson & Johnson, verdicts are not guaranteed. That will be up to your jury and the skill of your attorney.

A Chicago jury awarded nothing to a nurse who filed claims against J&J, rejecting her claims to compensation. Our California juries proved to be more receptive to the case they heard—the plaintiff in our state received $8.3 million for his injuries. Importantly, most of the jury award went towards pain and suffering. Only around $300,000 went towards medical costs.

Such a verdict may have incentivized J&J to seek settlements rather than litigation. Their settlement fund—explained below—is going towards settling over 7,000 separate claims, each one for a fraction of the amount of the California verdict. Such a large settlement indicates that they are more willing to seek settlements and avoid the costs of litigation. However, their billions in settlement do not apply to patients revised after August 2013—meaning yet more plaintiffs will have access to future settlements.

The Results

In November 2013, after a few bellwether* trials and initial litigation like the California trial, Johnson & Johnson set up a settlement agreement that sets aside more than $4 billion to pay out to thousands of patients throughout the nation. The settlement amounted to about $250,000 per patient, as well as additional funds to settle with insurance companies that incurred medical costs.

*Bellwether trials are test trials where each side pools the evidence they will use during actual litigation. This provides attorneys and courts with more clarity regarding what is more effective and beneficial: litigation or settlement. Bellwether trials can help plaintiffs receive more in compensation later.

Nearly a year later, in September 2014, federal bellwether trials began. These trials paved the way for more patients to receive settlement from DePuy for their defective hip implants, as the multidistrict litigation against the medical device giant began to take shape. More bellwether trials led to further settlements to patients DePuy harmed—in February 2015, another $420 million was set aside to settle more than 1400 other claims. Years after the fact, DePuy continues to be held accountable for the suffering of patients, some of whom are only just now receiving justice and compensation.