Texas Federal Judge Reduces Jury's Punitive Damage Award After Third Bellwether Trial In Product Liability Action Against DePuy And J&J
In 2001, Depuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Depuy Products, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson, Inc. (defendants) began manufacturing and selling a hip joint replacement product called the Pinnacle Acetabular Cup System. Although defendants characterized it as a superior product, the Pinnacle hip replacement product caused a number of medical issues for many of the over 150,000 patients who had the Pinnacle surgically implanted into their bodies. These issues included metallosis (metal poisoning), biologic toxicity, tissue death, bone erosion, pseudotumor development, severe inflammation, pain, and a high failure rate.
A number impacted patients from across the United States began filing product liability lawsuits against defendants by impacted patients. The actions were consolidated by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, and on May 24, 2011, the MDL proceeding was transferred to the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Texas, where it was assigned to Judge Ed Kinkeade. Through the MDL, the plaintiffs asserted a variety of claims, including negligence, strict liability, design defect, manufacturing defect, fraud and negligent misrepresentation, and breach of express warranty and implied warranty of merchantability, as well as punitive damages.
The first bellwether trial in the MDL ended in a significant verdict for J&J in October of 2014. The jury unanimously cleared DePuy Orthopedics of liability. The second bellwether trial resulted in a $500,000,000.00 verdict for the plaintiffs. The bulk of that award consisted of punitive damages. That punitive award was later reduced by Judge Kinkeade in accordance with Texas law to a total verdict of around $150 million.
In late 2016, a third bellwether trial in the matter began. Although the trial once again took place in Texas federal court before Judge Kinkeade, the court applied law from California, which was the residence of the plaintiffs in that trial. The plaintiffs for the third bellwether were Marvin Andrews, Kathleen Davis, Rosa Metzler, Judith Rodriguez, Linda Standerfer, and Michael Weiser. Following a two-month trial that closed on Nov. 30, 2016, the jury deliberated for about a day before returning a massive verdict in favor of all plaintiffs. The total award, including punitive damages, exceeded $1,000,000,000.00, with the jury awarding $84,000,000 in punitive damages to each of the six plaintiffs and $125,000 in punitive damages to each of their spouses. Other notable aspects of the jury verdict included $1,000,000.00 to each of the spouses for loss of consortium, and individual awards to each plaintiff for specified damages ranging from $4,000,000.00 to $6,000,000.00. Under California law, the punitive award was not subject to the same limitations as the verdict awarded to the plaintiffs in the second bellwether action.
On Jan. 3, 2017, Judge Ed Kinkeade reduced the punitive damage award by nearly half to approximately $543 Million. Plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal the same day.
Lexis Advance subscribers may view the complete summary here: In Re: Depuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation (3rd Bellwether Trial) Marvin Andrews, Kathleen Davis, Rosa Metzler, Judith Rodriguez, Linda Standerfer, and Michael Weiser; 2016 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 9820
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