Following Johnson & Johnson’s agreement to a $2.5 billion settlement for their defective ASR hip replacement system, they are again facing legal action for their Pinnacle Ultamet line of hip replacement equipment. According to the lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson’s Pinnacle hip replacement systems are liable to release metal content into the patient’s bloodstream, which can cause metal poisoning, infections, and other general health problems. If the ASR settlement addressed the claims of roughly 8,000 patients, this newest round of legal troubles may include as many as 6,000 additional cases. Depending on the outcome of the initial trials, it is expected that Johnson & Johnson will prepare a settlement similar to that for the ASR.
Jury selection has already begun for the first Pinnacle Ultamet case, which involves Kathleen Herlihy-Paoli, a patient who had to have her artificial hips surgically removed as a result of metal debris that had entered her bloodstream. Receiving her hip prosthesis in 2009, she soon began to complain of device-produced pain, which led to its removable in 2011. Once detached, her surgeon found that the implants had turned black from the metallosis and that Herlihy-Paoli’s bloodstream had cobalt blood serum levels 85 times greater than normal. Apart from cobalt, her surgeons also found higher-than-average levels of chromium, which contains toxic elements.
According to Herlihy-Paoli’s attorneys, Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary, DePuy, had misled patients in a nationwide telecast to physicians, during which they advertised the benefits of metal-on-metal hip implants. Included in the court papers, Herlihy-Paoli herself wrote, “In their continued marketing of the Pinnacle devices in spite of known deficiencies and defects, defendants’ actions were beyond all bounds of decency, were atrocious and of a kind utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”
In response to the allegation of fraud, Johnson & Johnson has expressed confidence in the evidence and believe it will show that the firm performed responsibly during the development, testing, and marketing of the product. Furthermore, according to court papers turned in by the company, Herlihy-Paoli has failed to prove that DePuy were involved in “intentional conduct,” which implies a deliberate attempt to harm Ms. Herlihy-Paoli and other patients while designing and testing the Pinnacle product. An expert hired by the plaintiff’s legal team has argued that if jurors find the company accountable for the mishandling of the implant devices, Johnson & Johnson may be ordered to pay a fee as high as $5.78 billion in the form of punitive damages. The firm, however, has questioned said expert’s methodology in determining that figure.
Patients with metal-on-metal hip replacements are encouraged to undergo a metal ion test, which looks for excessive amounts of chromium and cobalt in the bloodstream. These hip implants use a metal cup to attach to the bone, and the grinding of the ball joint inside the metal cup can release debris into the body, which can lead to metallosis (metal poisoning). Undue quantities of cobalt and chromium can cause cognitive and neurotoxic symptoms, as well as vision problems and hearing loss. Specific symptoms include bone deterioration, swelling and inflammation, extreme pain and local necrosis. The long-term effects of metal poisoning are still largely unknown, although further research hopes to construct a clearer picture of the long-run health consequences of metallosis caused by defective hip implants.
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Medical devices, such as hip replacement systems, are supposed to improve the quality of life of the patient. If you have received a hip implant and have experienced pain or other health problems, you may be the victim of a defective prosthesis. The legal team at Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison & Norwood, P.C. holds an extensive and comprehensive knowledge of the medical industry and the legal system, crucial for a successful claim against a negligent or fraudulent manufacturer. Contact us to schedule your case review and consultation at our Atlanta or Columbus offices today!