After hearing the first product liability case to go to trial in this country against DePuy Orthopaedics and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson over the DePuy ASR hip implant and deliberating for seven days, a Los Angeles jury today rendered its verdict. The jury found that the DePuy ASR XL hip implant was defective and that it caused the plaintiff's injuries. The jury awarded the plaintiff $8.3 million in compensatory damages.
The case is Kransky v. DePuy, BC456086, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County (Los Angeles), which began January 25, 2013 and ended on March 1. A second product liability trial against DePuy and J&J regarding the DePuy ASR hip implant begins next week in Chicago.
At the Kransky trial, J&J's lawyers highlighted Mr. Kransky's other health problems. Mr. Kransky was 65 years of age. His “diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, vascular disease and his many other health problems are unrelated” to his hip, J&J’s attorney Michael Zellers said in his closing argument. J&J lawyers said he was a vasculopath, which means he has diseased blood vessels throughout his body. In spite of these facts, the jury awarded Mr. Kransky $8 million for his pain and suffering.
The closing argument about Mr. Kransky's health was made in part to attempt to diminish the value of his case. This strategy will not be available to J&J in all future cases. Indeed, many otherwise healthy people have had to have their defective DePuy hip implants removed. Not all hip implant patients are elderly and in poor health. Some young people received DePuy ASR hip implants after a trauma, like a sports injury, because the device was marketed as being able to last up to 30 years. This is important to a young hip implant recipient, because each successive hip replacement surgery causes damage to the bones and puts at risk the function of the patient's hip joint. Thus, an implant marketed to last 30 rather than 15 years was very attractive to young patients and their surgeons.
How will a jury treat these patients?