A Los Angeles jury on Friday ordered Johnson & Johnson's DePuy orthopedic unit to pay more than $8 million in damages in the first trial of nearly 11,000 lawsuits filed over a recalled metal hip sold by the company.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury found that the hips were defective, but that the negligence did not cause injury to plaintiff Loren Kransky. DePuy was ordered to pay more than $338,000 in medical costs and $8 million for pain and suffering, but the jury did not set an award for punitive damages.
DePuy recalled the hips in 2010, prompted by recognition that the devices were failing at higher-than-expected rates. Some 93,000 ASR hips were sold prior to the recall.
"We believe ASR XL was properly designed, and that DePuy's actions concerning the product were appropriate and responsible," DePuy spokeswoman Lorie Gawreluk said in a statement.
She said the company plans to appeal the verdict, based on grounds including the fact that the court did not allow the company to tell the jury that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had reviewed the device and cleared it for sale.
Kransky attorney Brian Panish said the jury decision "is the first day of reckoning for DePuy and Johnson & Johnson ... We expect to get punitive damages in the next trial."
He had argued that the ASR hip resulted in elevated levels of cobalt and chromium in Kransky, causing him pain that required the hip to be replaced.
J&J lawyers maintained that there is no medical consensus on what levels of the metals may cause harm to patients and said Kransky's other medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and kidney cancer, were the source of his pain and suffering.
The verdict "is everything we could hope for, given the limitations of this case," James O'Callahan, a plaintiff's lawyer handling other DePuy hip implant cases, said in an emailed statement.
Kransky's case was expedited under a California law that gives preferential status to plaintiffs who are terminally ill.
Another hip implant trial in Illinois state court starts on Monday. Two cases in the federal multidistrict litigation are set for trial in May and July in Ohio.
"A more representative case should have a stronger recovery (for the plaintiff) because the injury related to the hip is more of a long-term problem they're going to be facing," said Ellen Relkin of Weitz & Luxenberg, co-lead plaintiff's counsel for the federal multidistrict litigation consolidated in Ohio.
The metal implants were developed to be more durable than traditional implants, which combine a ceramic or metal ball with a plastic socket, but concerns have grown after they were shown to fail more often.
With wear, all-metal implants can shed metal debris where two components connect, potentially damaging bone and soft tissue.
The FDA last month issued a proposal calling on companies that make all-metal hip replacements to provide additional information proving they are safe and effective before being allowed to continue selling them.
J&J has set aside more than $3 billion to cover costs for the ASR hip recall.
Kransky's attorneys had asked for punitive damages of between $72 million and $179 million, in addition to $5 million for pain in suffering and $338,000 in medical costs.
As many as 500,000 American are estimated to have received metal-on-metal hip replacements.