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DePuy Multi District Litigation in Ohio

Defective hip replacements subject of lawsuits

Lawsuits from all over the country regarding the defective hip replacement manufactured by DePuy Orthopedics Inc. are being heard in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Toledo. The complaints have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) designed to speed up the legal process for plaintiffs and defendants and handle the many thousands of suits in a cost-effective manner. DePuy, which makes a variety of medical devices, is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

The metal-on-metal hip replacement, known as the Depuy ASR, has been shown to fail at a much higher and faster rate than comparable joint replacements from other manufacturers. Some have indicated that the failure rate may be as great as 30 percent in the first six years. Patients with DePuy hip replacements have had to suffer revision surgeries, bone fractures near the site, dislocation, metal poisoning and other complications.

Johnson & Johnson recalled the implant in August 2010 after it was shown to be failing at an unacceptable rate. Former employees have testified in individual lawsuits that the company had known about the problems for years but had done nothing.

So-called bellweather trials will begin in May in the MDL. These trials test the legal waters to determine issues and explore how juries are likely to respond to testimony and evidence. Although the vast majority of hip replacement cases are part of the MDL, individual cases have been heard in other areas of the United States.

The first case, heard in California state court, awarded more than $8 million in damages to a plaintiff. The average lifespan of hip replacements overall is 10-15 years. The second non-MDL case is being heard in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois. A 54-year-old nurse's DePuy hip replacement failed after three years and she was forced to have revision surgery. The average lifespan of hip replacements from all manufacturers is 10-15 years.

Both individual and consolidated cases allege that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn patients and doctors of the high failure rate, failed to conduct adequate testing of the device both before and after its release, failure to abide by warranties, and concealment and misrepresentation.

An Australian registry of medical device failures suggests that the failure rate of the DePuy ASR hip replacement may be even higher than 30 percent. There is no similar registry or database in the United States, primarily because medical device manufacturers have formed a powerful and unified lobby against collecting such data.