Pinnacle hip implant patients have won two major cases against DePuy and its parent company Johnson & Johnson (J&J). In both of those cases, the judges upheld the juries’ verdicts, but reduced the punitive damages awarded.
Bellwethers Hugely Impact the Settlement Agreement
When many plaintiffs suffer the same injuries from the same product, they can consolidate their cases into one jurisdiction. This is called a “multidistrict litigation” (MDL). In an MDL, the plaintiffs and defense decide on a group of “test cases” to take to trial. The plaintiffs and defendant use those test cases to see what a jury thinks of their arguments. Those test cases are called “bellwether” cases. Whichever party wins the bellwethers has a stronger bargaining position. So if the plaintiffs win, they have an upper hand when negotiating a settlement with the manufacturer.
Pinnacle Hip Implant Plaintiffs Won 2/3 Bellwethers
DePuy won the first Pinnacle hip implant bellwether. The jury said that the plaintiff’s injuries were the implant surgeon’s fault, not the Pinnacle hip implant’s fault. The second and third bellwethers went much differently than the first.
Plaintiffs Won Big Despite Judges’ Reduced Awards
The plaintiffs won the second Pinnacle hip implant bellwether. The jury said that the Pinnacle hip implants were responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, and consequently awarded the 5 plaintiffs a combined total of $500 million. The judge did not overrule the jury’s determination that the Pinnacle hip implants hurt the plaintiffs. However, the judge reduced the award from $500 million to $151 million.
The plaintiffs won the third Pinnacle hip implant bellwether. The jury again said that the Pinnacle hip implants hurt the patients, and awarded the 6 plaintiffs a combined total of $28 million in compensatory damages, plus $1 billion in punitive damages. The judge did not overrule the jury’s determination that the Pinnacle hip implants hurt the plaintiffs. The judge also did not overrule the compensatory damages award of $28 million. However, the judge reduced the punitive damages award from $1 billion total to $1.25 million total.
The Plaintiffs’ Victories Put Pressure On J&J to Settle
Although the plaintiffs are receiving less money than they were initially awarded, these developments are not bad news. Again, DePuy won only 1/3 bellwethers, while the plaintiffs won 2/3. In the 2 cases plaintiffs won, DePuy appealed, trying to get the appellate courts to reverse the juries’ decisions. But the judges refused to reverse the juries’ decisions. All the appellate courts did was reduce the punitive damages awards as required under Texas law. Despite the reduction in punitive damages, this record-setting verdict should continue to put pressure on J&J to sit down at the negotiating table and resolve these cases.