When a jury awarded six plaintiffs a massive $502 million verdict this past May in the second Pinnacle hip implant trial, there was one tiny silver lining for Depuy Orthopedics and its parent company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) – the state of Texas has damage caps on punitive damages. A Texas judge later reduced the award to $150 million. But that won’t be the case in the upcoming third trial.
All six plaintiffs in the third trial are California residents, which means the court will apply California law in the proceedings. In California, there are no damage caps for punitive damages, which means J&J has no chance of mitigating such damages in this trial.
The company could easily see another multimillion-dollar verdict in the third trial, which would have huge implications for more than 8,000 other Pinnacle hip implant lawsuits currently pending against the company.
The Problem With Metal On Metal Hip Implants
When the Pinnacle hip implant hit the market in 2000, DePuy and J&J had reason to believe the device would not be safe. Metal-on-metal (MoM) hip implants like Pinnacle were first studied in the 1970s, when it was determined the devices were too prone to failure, and development of MoM implants was discontinued.
Despite this, in 1995, DePuy and J&J decided to develop a new metal hip implant against the advice of a staff scientist worried the devices would have similarly high rates of failure. This decision is shaping up to be extremely costly for the company.
J&J Plagued By Lawsuits
Not only could the upcoming California Pinnacle hip implant trial cost J&J millions of dollars, the company also faces a fourth baby powder cancer trial, which could potentially also result in massive damage awards as it has in past trials. The company faces lawsuits over additional prescription drugs and medical devices, totaling more than 50,000 product liability lawsuits.