NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is facing a new round of lawsuits over its Depuy unit’s metal-on-metal version of the pinnacle hip, a type of implant that has been blamed for poisoning patients.

The world’s largest healthcare company is beginning its first trial on allegations that the hip implants were defectively designed and caused metal debris to leech into patients’ bloodstreams.

In court filings, Kathleen Herlighy-Paoli says an infection caused by the cobalt-and-chromium material in the device forced her to have her artificial hips surgically removed.

Jury selection in Herlihy-Paoli’s suit began on September 2 in Dallas, Texas.

More than 6,000 cases related to the implants will be heard by a jury. But this is the first of over 6,000 cases that have been grouped together for U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade to preside over.

“The first trials in any of these consolidated litigations set the tone for the following cases,” Carl Tobias, who teaches product-liability law at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told Bloomberg News.

“If J&J loses the first couple of these Pinnacle trials, they better start seriously thinking about coming up with a settlement similar to what they signed off on for the ASR hips.”

J&J is defending its line of Pinnacle Ultamet hip implant devices.  The company says studies show the product restores mobility and reduces pain for patients in need of hip replacement, according to published reports.

“We are confident the evidence presented at trial will show the company acted appropriately and responsibly in the development, testing and marketing,” of the Pinnacle hips, DePuy spokeswoman Mindy Tinsley wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Last year, J&J decided to settle 8,000 patients’ claims that its ASR line of artificial hips were defective, setting aside $2.5 billion to settle the disputes.

As we reported, J&J recalled 93,000 ASR hip implants worldwide in August 2010.  It said 12% failed within five years, but internal company documents revealed that 37% failed after just 4 and a half years.

The company had promoted its metal-on-metal implants, which were first sold in the US in 2005, as a product that would last 20 years.

But J&J stopped selling the metal-on-metal version of the Pinnacle hip in August 2013 after the Food and Drug Administration changed its requirements for device makers.

Business Reporter at New Brunswick Today |

Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.

Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.