Last month, a Dallas jury heard the first of thousands of pending metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip implant cases to be tried. After an 8-week trial and 3 days of deliberation, the jury found for DePuy. Specifically, jurors in the federal court concluded that the Pinnacle implant’s design was not the cause of the failure and DePuy was not liable to the Plaintiff.
The Plaintiff involved a Montana woman who was implanted with bilateral metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip implants in October 2009 and December 2009. After her surgeries she reported severe pain in her hips and her surgeon determined the implants had released dangerous levels of cobalt and chromium into her blood stream. Her blood was tested prior to her revision surgeries, and the test indicated that her cobalt serum levels were 85 times higher than normal. A pre-revision MRI also showed a pseudotumor in her left hip. The Plaintiff underwent left hip revision surgery in April 2011 and the Pinnacle implant was noted to have turned black from metallosis. Later that year, in November 2011, the Plaintiff underwent revision surgery for her right hip. Of note, Plaintiff’s surgeon indicated he had improperly implanted the device and Plaintiff also had a failure of an unrelated hip implant weeks before trial.
Armed with these facts, Johnson & Johnson presented a vigorous defense, arguing that design flaws in the Pinnacle hip implant did not cause the Plaintiff’s injuries; rather, surgeon error was to blame for her ailments. The defense also argued that the metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip implant had been thoroughly tested and closely monitored for design defects and that the company properly marketed the device.
Ultimately, the jury found the causation fact pattern too difficult to overcome, hanging their hats on the defense’s argument of surgeon error. During the original implant surgeries, the implanting surgeon, an Arthroplasty Fellow trained by a DePuy design surgeon, placed the cups at extreme angles to address the Plaintiff’s dysplasia. It was argued that the angles were outside those recommended by DePuy.
Despite this defense verdict, patients should recognize that metal-on-metal hip implants like the Pinnacle device have been part of the greatest medical device failure in history. In 2012, metal-on-metal hip sales in the U.S. and Europe plunged from 20% of the market in 2007 to less than 2%, as doctors questioned their safety and patients filed lawsuits citing flawed products. Notably, as of August 31, 2013, Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics made the decision to stop selling metal-on-metal and ceramic-on-metal hip replacements, including the metal-on-metal version of its Pinnacle line of hip implant devices.
The DePuy Pinnacle Multidistrict Litigation (“MDL”) involves DePuy’s design, development, manufacture, and distribution of the Pinnacle metal-on-metal artificial hip implant. Presently there are more than 6,000 lawsuits pending in the Pinnacle MDL. The MDL is coordinated in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas (Dallas) before Honorable Judge Ed. Kinkeade.
Patients should be reminded that this trial was only the first of several bellwether test cases. The next trial in the litigation is scheduled for January 2015.
If you have experienced undue pain and complications with your DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement implant, you may have a personal injury case against Johnson & Johnson/DePuy. Contact Pope McGlamry at 877-285-7656 or submit a case evaluation online at www.popemcglamry.com to schedule a complimentary legal consultation.