Settlement Reached in All-Metal Hip Replacement Suit
An agreement has been reached with Johnson & Johnson in an effort to settle thousands of lawsuits against the company regarding its all-metal hip replacements, yet some experts are concerned that the settlement would not be enough to satisfy all the claims made against the company. The $5.5 billion settlement would be one of the largest product liability claims for a medical device if it receives court approval. Hip Replacement Problems Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary, DePuy Orthopaedics, sold the Articular Surface Replacement (ASR) devices until 2010, when it was recalled due to early failure rates. The device had a metal ball and cup, which shed metallic debris during wear and tear; the metallic particles then entered patients’ bloodstreams, causing damaged tissue and crippling injuries. Court documents indicate that DePuy was aware of the failures in ASR devices and that the design was flawed long before they recalled the hip replacements. High Failure Rate On average, artificial hips last approximately 15 years before they need replacement, but according to data from agencies outside the United States, ASR devices were failing within just a few years. Even internal documents from DePuy indicate that the ASR devices failed in 40 percent of cases within five years, a rate that is eight times higher than many other devices. In addition, internal DePuy documents also show that the head of the company’s orthopedic unit, Andrew Ekdahl, who oversaw introduction of the product, was informed in 2008 that ASR devices appeared to have a design flaw. Settlement Terms The settlement is designed to resolve cases that involve patients who have already had ASR devices removed and replaced due to failure, and each patient could receive as much as $250,000 on average in compensation, depending on the patient’s age and medical condition. That figure is before legal fees, which are to be paid by the patient. Patients whose devices have not required replacement at the time of the settlement would not be eligible for compensation; however, if they undergo replacement before the plan ends, there is a stipulation to allow an additional $250,000 for each patient. Future replacement patients could result in a higher final cost to settle the claims for Johnson & Johnson. The proposal was sent to a federal judge in late December, but 94 percent of eligible claimants must approve the proposal for it to move forward. When a medical device defect is suspected as the cause or a contributing factor in an injury or death, a product liability claim may be in order. Contact Dallas-Fort Worth lawyers at Frenkel & Frenkel to schedule a free initial consultation when injuries may have been caused or worsened by a medical device defect.