J&J Hip Distributor Drops Sanctions Bid Against Atlanta Firm

A distributor of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) hip implants and a former sales representative dropped a request for court sanctions against an Atlanta law firm that they said used confidential patient data to solicit clients.

The request stemmed from one of more than 4,500 lawsuits over the recall by J&J’s DePuy unit of its ASR hips in 2010. The firm, Childers, Schlueter & Smith LLC, filed five lawsuits against the ASR distributor and sales representative on behalf of patients including Candace and Gordon Hershberger of Georgia.

Candace Hershberger had her hips replaced with ASR devices, and both need replacement again, according to a February 2011 complaint against DC Medical LLC, an ASR distributor; MJW Orthopedics, a former ASR sales representative; and Michael J. Wright, the sole MJW shareholder.

In the pretrial exchange of evidence, the firm got 130,000 pages of documents, including one with patient-identifying information that the defendants failed to black out. DC Medical and MJW claimed Childers Schlueter used the information to solicit new clients, violating federal law protecting patient privacy. They sought sanctions against the law firm.

The firm denied the claim at a Feb. 9 hearing in state court in Decatur, Georgia. On March 2, State Court Judge Alvin T. Wong signed a consent order saying both sides “resolved all outstanding issues” and dismissing the sanctions motion.

‘Above Board’

“We are pleased that the defendants’ motion has been dismissed,” said attorney C. Andrew Childers in an e-mail. “The court’s order cements what we have known all along -- that all of our efforts have been above board and proper.”

An attorney for the DC Medical and MJW, N. Karen Deming of Troutman Sanders LLP, said in an e-mail, “The motion was withdrawn only after plaintiff lawyers agreed to return the documents and not to solicit new clients based on information they should not have had -- which is the primary relief we had requested.”

The case is Hershberger v. DC Medical LLC, 11A34982-2, State Court of DeKalb County, Georgia (Decatur).

To contact the reporters on this story: David Voreacos in Newark, New Jersey, at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net; Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta at lviele@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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