Loren Kransky says that his metal-on-metal ASR XL hip made by DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, failed less than five years after he received it. In March of 2013, after a trial that lasted five weeks, a California jury sided with him and awarded him with an $8.3 million verdict.
Kransky’s trial was the first of thousands of product liability cases filed against DePuy for the failed ASR metal-on-metal hip. Johnson & Johnson immediately appealed the decision.
Last March, a federal jury in Dallas, Texas, sided with the another group of plaintiffs and slapped Johnson & Johnson and DePuy with a verdict just shy of $500 million. The verdict has since been reduced to $151 million as a result of Texas state laws limiting punitive damages.
Most hip implants are made from plastic or ceramic parts, and last up to 20 years. But the metal-on-metal hip design was recommended by doctors to younger, more active patients, advising that it was a better fit for their lifestyle. But after a few short years, many patients began experiencing adverse effects that included pain, damage of surrounding tissue and muscle, and a blood poisoning known as metallosis from the metal bits flaking off the device and getting absorbed into the bloodstream.
A new study suggests that the metal ions are absorbed into the bone marrow, which impairs bone-forming cells’ function. Another study found an alarming 10- to 20-fold increase in cobalt and chromium levels in the systems of the patients who received the metal-on-metal hip implant.
In supporting the recent $8.3 million verdict, the three-judge appeals panel wrote, “We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in any of its evidentiary rulings. DePuy also argues that the jury’s verdict is not supported by substantial evidence and is internally inconsistent. We conclude that the verdict is supported by substantial evidence and is not irreconcilable. Finally, DePuy argues that the damages award is excessive. We conclude that the $8.3 million compensatory damages award is not so grossly out of proportion as to shock the conscience. Therefore, we affirm.”