Bloomberg News reported that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was weighing a three billion settlement, a so called “global settlement” covering all U.S. hip implant cases. The amount would be the largest settlement ever paid involving hip implants.
The legal actions stem from the ASR XL Acetablular metal-on-metal hip implant model the company sold. After receiving thousands of complaints and having been served with numerous lawsuits, J&J recalled the new hip replacement implant, the ASR XL Acetablular metal-on-metal hip implant, in 2010. At the time, nearly 100,000 of the artificial hips had been sold.
A New Implant Technology
Traditional hip replacements have for years been made of ceramic, joined to a plastic socket. They are considered to be quite effective in the short term, but their durability has been questioned ever since they were introduced. The newer, metal implants were designed to last longer, with very little wear experienced during the testing phase of the product.
After patients began to complain of pain in the hip area, J&J performed extensive research and concluded what other medical practitioners had already predicted. The metal actually shed small particles which irritated the surrounding tissue. In other words, the new hip replacements were actually no more durable than their predecessor, and the danger to the surrounding tissue was far greater.
A First Settlement
On March 8 of 2013, the DePuy unit of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was ordered by a Los Angeles jury to pay $8.3 million in damages to Loren Kransky, a Montana retiree who had suffered from complications he claimed were the result of a defective hip implant. The ruling was subsequently upheld by the trial judge. This is the first of what could be a long string of successful civil suits against the healthcare giant.
Already more than 11,000 suits have been filed against J&J with regards to these advanced hip implants. Patients receiving the new metal hip replacement part have often complained that the material used causes deterioration of the tissues surrounding the metal.
The civil actions taken against J& J included testimony from the patients and their primary caregivers. The major concern outlined in these civil suits centered around the idea that the metal implants could actually wear away bone and connective tissue in the areas where the metal components were joined. The flexibility of the material was the apparent cause of the loss of structural integrity in the new-style implants.
Settlement For Pain and Suffering
In the Los Angeles court decision, $300,000 was awarded to Loren Kransky for the reimbursement of medical expenses, and a total of $8 million was awarded him for pain and suffering. The suit did not include any monies for punitive damages.
Because of the high number of claims filed nationwide against J&J, most legal experts believe the health care company will not choose the civil court route in the future. Instead, it is likely the company will seek a national settlement that distributes money to the plaintiffs. The amount paid per individual claim will probably vary and will depend on the documentation contained in each case.
J&J has stated that they certainly did not offer what was believed at the time to be a defective product, and they have also noted that the FDA approved the device for sale in the United States. Nonetheless, J&J has set aside billions of dollars to cover legal costs for their hip implant product.