Thousands of patients suffering from defective metal-on-metal hip implants will have a longer wait to discover how their lawsuits against manufacturer DePuy Orthopaedics may play out in court. That’s because the first DePuy ASR cases with a scheduled jury trial have been settled. The plaintiffs each received about $200,000 in confidential deals, according to Bloomberg.
The news service is reporting the settlements are on the low end of what the company should have expected to pay. It quotes Eric Gordon, a University of Michigan business professor who follows the pharmaceutical industry, as saying: “J&J should have expected to pay in the $200,000-to-$500,000 range per case.”
State and Federal Lawsuits Against DePuy
The three cases were to be tried together in state court in Las Vegas, Nev., beginning Dec. 3, 2012. The plaintiffs — Annelise Rundle, 74; Martha Bender, 69; and Katherine Guy, 60 — each suffered from an ASR hip device that had to be removed and replaced.
A DePuy spokesperson would not tell Bloomberg if the company intends to settle additional cases. The next opportunity to find out may be January 2013, when a second state case is scheduled for trial in Maryland. Other cases are filed in state courts in California, Florida, Wisconsin and Utah.
Health care giant Johnson & Johnson is facing more than 8,000 DePuy ASR claims in state and federal courts. In August 2010, DePuy recalled 93,000 ASR devices, including the ASR XL Acetabular System, a socket used in total hip replacement surgeries, and the ASR Hip Resurfacing System, a partial hip replacement used to preserve the bone. The all-metal parts rubbed against each other, causing the implants to fail after a few years. The average life of an artificial hip is 15 years.
In addition, the grinding produced metal shavings that entered the bloodstream and tissues, resulting in metallosis. One British study links the metal debris of hip-implant patients to a higher risk of developing kidney and bladder cancers.
Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)
More than 6,000 of the DePuy ASR cases are making their way through federal court as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). In re DePuy Orthopedics Inc., ASR Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, 10-MD-2197, is being overseen by Judge David A. Katz in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
An MDL allows the court to streamline the discovery phase of multiple lawsuits by consolidating the testimony and evidence for similar cases. Then, each lawsuit goes to trial separately, and each plaintiff receives his or her own jury verdict or settlement. (This is different from a class-action lawsuit, in which the members of the class agree to a single trial and single judgment or settlement to be divided among the plaintiffs.)
The first federal trial could be as soon as March or April 2013, according to Bloomberg.
In January 2012, Johnson & Johnson said it had spent about $800 million related to the recall, and that did not include its defense in ASR cases. Gordon estimates the device manufacturer could spend about $2 billion by the time all the ASR hip cases are resolved.