Number of DePuy hip implant cases increases while first trial underway

By Marilyn Tennissen | Oct 7, 2014

The number of lawsuits filed in Texas over problems with DePuy hip implants is nearing 7,000, while the first trial over the alleged defects continues.

As of Sept. 30, court documents show 6,849 lawsuits have been filed in the multi-district litigation court in the Dallas Division of the Northern District of Texas under U.S. District Judge James E. Kinkeade (In re: DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Pinnacle Hip Implant Product Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2244). 

Plaintiffs claim DePuy Orthopedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, failed to warn about the potential for the Pinnacle hip implant to fail and say the metal-on-metal version of the device utilizing the Ultamet liner was designed defectively.

The alleged defect can cause metal to leech into a patient’s blood stream and the resulting build up of chromium and cobalt can lead to metallosis, chronic pain and other complications.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, metal is released from hip implant components during walking or running. Tiny metal particles that wear off can fall around the implant and cause damage to the bone or soft tissue surrounding the implant and joint. Soft tissue damage may lead to the medical device failing and elevating metal ion levels in the implant recipient's bloodstream.

In January 2013, the FDA warned that metal-on-metal hips were more likely to fail early than those made of other materials. In May 2013, Johnson & Johnson and DePuy Orthopedics announced they would cease the sale of metal-on-metal hip implants, including the devices involved in the Pinnacle lawsuits, according to Bloomberg

Meanwhile, the first trial over the Pinnacle implant began Sept. 3 in the Northern District of Texas (Herlihy-Paoli v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., 11-cv-3590).

The plaintiff in that case was a 58-year-old Montana woman who received a DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal implant for her right hip in September 2006 and an implant for her left hip in April 2007.

According to the complaint, the woman had her first surgery in 2010 to remove the implants and had additional surgeries.

Court filings allege that when surgeons removed her left hip, they discovered the implant had turned black with metallosis.

She says she suffered from elevated levels of cobalt in her blood stream which she claims came from metal debris coming from her metal-on-metal Pinnacle implant.

The plaintiff, who is represented by Mark Lanier of Houston, is seeking damages for physical injuries as well as punitive damages for “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

The trial is still underway, and could determine the future of other hip implant cases in the MDL.

DePuy wanted the trial moved from Texas, claiming the court did not have jurisdiction since the plaintiff resides in Montana.

Judge Kinkeade denied their argument, noting that there was sufficient evidence provided by the plaintiffs to show that DePuy and the various Johnson & Johnson entities engaged in a nationwide campaign promoting the Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implants, which would be sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over those companies in the states of Montana and Texas as well as the rest of the nation.




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