Johnson & Johnson has tentatively agreed to a settlement that could reach up to $4 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits filed by patients who have been seriously injured by defective all-metal hip implants. According to a news report in The New York Times, the tentative settlement plan, which is awaiting court approval, will be one of the largest payouts for product liability claims involving medical devices, if approved.
The agreement will include those patients who have already required revision surgery to replace the device known as Articular Surface Replacement, or A.S.R. Under this proposed deal, each patient would receive about $350,000 on average in compensation although that figure could vary depending on factors such as the patient’s age and medical condition. This lawsuit may include 7,000 to 8,000 cases. The final cost of the deal to Johnson & Johnson could increase depending on how many claimants to received the device undergo replacement surgeries in the future. Under the plan, those who have not had a replacement would not receive compensation.
DePuy Knew about Implant Defects
The A.S.R hip implant was sold by Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary, DePuy Orthopedics, until mid 2010 when the company issued a product defect recall amid increasing rates of failure. The device, which has a metal ball and metal cup, has the tendency to shed metallic debris as it wears causing painful complications for patients who received them including tissue damage, blood toxicity and crippling injuries.
Although DePuy officials have maintained that they did the right thing by recalling the hip implants, internal company documents show that they were long aware that the hip had a design flaw and was failing prematurely at a high rate. Many artificial hips (that are not all-metal) last 15 years or more before they need to be replaced. However, the DePuy hips were failing in five years or less.
High Failure Rates
Internal documents showed that the hips will fail in 40 percent of those patients in five years, a rate eight times higher than for many other hip devices. About 93,000 patients received the A.S.R implants worldwide, one-third of them in the United States. Even if this settlement is approved, there are several pending product liability lawsuits involving the A.S.R and another brand of all-metal hip it no longer sells called Pinnacle.
There is no question that DePuy and Johnson & Johnson officials hid the truth from consumers who trusted their products. When an implant is defective, the only way to get rid of it or get it replaced is through revision surgery. Tens of thousands of people have had to undergo unnecessary surgery as a result of these defective products. It is important that these injured victims and their families receive just compensation for their significant losses.