DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. has quietly settled bellwether cases that had been scheduled for trial over its hip implant device.
The abrupt resolution of cases that had been set for trial in September and October came after a Los Angeles jury awarded $8.3 million against DePuy on March 8, but the company won a defense verdict in Chicago on April 16. According to Bloomberg News, Johnson & Johnson, DePuy’s parent company, is weighing an offer to pay $3 billion to settle more than 10,000 cases over its ASR device.
Spokespeople for DePuy did not respond to requests for comment.
In the first trial, a California state jury awarded Loren Kransky $8.3 million but rejected his bid for punitive damages. The second trial, in state court in Illinois, found no liability against DePuy, which was allowed for the first time to put on evidence that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had cleared the ASR device for sale.
The next cases that had been set to go before jurors in state courts have settled. Bergen County, N.J., Judge Brian Martinotti issued an October 8 order indicating that the first bellwether trial in that docket “has been resolved.” No settlement terms were disclosed; trial had been scheduled for October 21. Martinotti scheduled a case management conference for November 21.
In the Kransky case, which took place in Los Angeles County, Calif., Superior Court, DePuy was scheduled to file an opening brief before the state’s Second District Court of Appeals this month. That brief was put off until December. The case was part of the California state court consolidated litigation, pending before San Francisco County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer. On October 1, plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a notice that the next case scheduled for trial had settled. Terms of that deal were not disclosed. Trial in that case had been scheduled for October 15.
One of those plaintiffs’ attorneys, Brian Panish of Panish Shea & Boyle in Los Angeles, who represented Kransky, said the delay in the appeal was “just part of normal appellate process.” He said other cases are settling because DePuy “is afraid of a punitive damages award. Any hope of settlement will be dampened if a big punitive damage award is received.”
The next bellwether case in the California state litigation is scheduled for January in Los Angeles, he said.
Meanwhile, in multidistrict litigation in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. District Judge David Katz adjourned for 90 days a September 24 trial in the first bellwether case on the federal docket, saying that “scheduling of expert witnesses by both parties has become an extremely difficult task.” No new date has been scheduled. Ellen Relkin of Weitz & Luxenberg in New York, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs’ steering committee in the MDL, did not respond to a request for comment.
More than 93,000 ASR metal-on-metal hip replacements worldwide have been implanted in patients. DePuy voluntarily recalled its device in 2010, but plaintiffs claim the company knew about problems long before that and failed to warn doctors. Those problems allegedly include pain, grinding or clicking in the hips and a high metal content in blood tests.
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