J&J Appeals Hip Implant Test Trial Verdicts

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By Julie A. Steinberg

Challenges are underway contesting two DePuy Pinnacle hip implant test trials—one of which led to a $1 billion punitive award ( In re DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. Pinnacle Hip Implant Prod. Liab. Litig. (Andrews v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc.) , N.D. Tex., No. 15-03484, motion filed 1/31/17 ).

The Pinnacle matter, with about 8,700 cases against DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. and parent Johnson & Johnson, is one of the biggest multidistrict proceedings in the federal system.

Plaintiffs allege the “metal-on-metal” hip implants fail prematurely.

In December 2016, jurors in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas awarded $1 billion in punitive damages and $32 million in actual damages to six plaintiffs.

Judge Ed Kinkeade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas later cut the punitive award nearly in half.

But the companies say in a Jan. 31 brief to the district court that the trial was “rife with inflammatory and inadmissible evidence” that led the jury to decide the case based on emotion rather than reason.

They also argue the damages were excessive, and say the reduced punitive award—18 times higher than the compensatory damages—is still far greater than the constitutionally permitted ratio of 1:1.

Separately, the companies appealed a $152 million verdict on behalf of five plaintiffs ( In re DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. Pinnacle Prod. Liab, Litig. (Christopher v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc.) , 5th Cir., No. 16-11051, Brief filed 1/30/17 ).

J&J and DePuy told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Jan. 30 that the district court repeatedly admitted highly prejudicial and inflammatory evidence over their objections and improperly refused to bifurcate the punitive damages phase of the trial as required by Texas law.

Additionally, they argue the money judgment isn’t supported by the evidence and is vastly excessive under Texas law.

The jury in the Northern District of Texas in March 2016 awarded the plaintiffs $142 million in compensatory damages, and $360 million in punitive damages. The punitive award was cut to $10 million, applying Texas damages caps.

There have been three bellwether, or test trials in the Pinnacle MDL.

J&J and DePuy won the first Pinnacle case, which was tried in 2014, also in the Northern District of Texas.

The Lanier Law Firm P.C. and others represent the plaintiffs.

Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull and Locke Lord LLP filed the brief for the defendants in the Northern District of Texas.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Locke Lord LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP filed the brief for the defendants in the Fifth Circuit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie A. Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com

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