A Los Angeles jury has found Johnson & Johnson, the well-known household product company and world’s largest maker of medical products, liable to a plaintiff who received an artificial hip made by the company’s DePuy orthopedics division. The jury awarded $8.3 damages to the recipient of the recalled artificial hip. The verdict is the first in the more than 10,750 civil cases alleging that the artificial hip known as the Articular Surface Replacement (ASR) was defectively designed.
While the bulk of the ASR cases are consolidated in an Ohio federal district court, the Kransky case is not among them. Kransky has attracted considerable attention in the mass press as well as legal trade journals, with the The New York Times reporting that the case was accelerated to trial owing to the plaintiff’s terminal cancer and other ailments, which was also featured in Jonhnson & Johnson’s unsuccessful defense before the 12-person Los Angeles jury.
Though the ASR’s all-metal design was believed to be an innovative advancement when introduced in 2003, the artificial hip was recalled by Johnson & Johnson in 2010 when it became clear that the metal-on-metal wear of the ASR’s two major components resulted in metallic shavings that caused tissue and bone inflammation. At the Los Angeles trial, the key piece of evidence was an internal Johnson & Johnson memo that accentuated that the “recall” of an implanted medical device is distinctly invasive, with the memo estimating that as many as 40 percent of ASR recipients would require surgical replacement.
Despite the Kransky verdict signaling that the remaining ASR litigation will be resolved in favor of the plaintiffs, attorneys on both sides have stated that the verdict is not indicative of the fate of the remaining 10,000+ claims still pending. Even so, it is difficult to envision Johnson & Johnson eluding liability as to a recalled product, implanted in vulnerable patients, and allegedly depositing metallic shavings in and around those patients’ lower abdomens.