A New Jersey judge warned of several “rogue websites” by lawyers seeking to take advantage of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)’s agreement to pay at least $2.47 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits over its recalled hip implants.
Superior Court Judge Brian Martinotti heard a summary in Hackensack today of the settlement from lawyers who negotiated an accord designed to resolve about 8,000 U.S. suits against J&J’s DePuy unit. DePuy recalled 93,000 of its ASR hips worldwide in 2010 as the device’s failure rate began to climb.
Lawyers for J&J, the world’s biggest seller of health-care products, and patients revealed the accord on Nov. 19 in federal court in Toledo, Ohio. Martinotti, who oversees about 600 cases in New Jersey, praised the pact as a “creative and a unique” resolution. He said www.usasrhipsettlement.com is the only reliable website outlining terms of the pact.
“There are several rogue websites out there,” Martinotti said. “Please be wary of other websites.”
Martinotti’s call came as J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and plaintiffs’ lawyers seek to persuade patients to elect the accord’s payouts. If 94 percent of eligible clients don’t agree by April 1, J&J has the right to walk away from the deal by June 1. Some lawyers have said they will counsel their clients to reject the terms and hold out for more money.
To be eligible, patients must have had an ASR implanted in the U.S. or a U.S. military hospital, had it removed for reasons related to the recall by Aug. 31 and had it in place for at least 180 days. It doesn’t cover patients who had their hips removed after Aug. 31 in surgeries known as revisions.
Those getting awards will be in two groups. The larger group will get a base award of $250,000 that can be reduced for such reasons as a patient’s age, weight, smoking history, and the length of time before the ASR was removed.
Another group will be eligible for additional money if they had surgeries on both hips, needed multiple revisions, or had such extraordinary medical events as a heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism or deep-vein thrombosis.
All patients must register their claims by Jan. 6 and decide whether to enroll by April 1. The accord’s specific terms can be found on the official settlement website, said Steven Skikos, co-leader of a group of plaintiffs’ lawyers overseeing hip cases consolidated before a federal judge in Toledo.
“It is important that accurate information regarding this settlement is presented to the individual lawyers and their clients who have patiently awaited this day,” Skikos said in an e-mailed statement.
Martinotti and other judges overseeing J&J’s offer to settle hips cases are concerned that some lawyers’ web sites aren’t providing accurate information about the accord’s terms, Skikos added. Lorie Gawreluk, a J&J spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return a call and e-mail seeking comment on the websites.
J&J officials agreed to pay the $2.47 billion in hopes of resolving about 8,000 suits by patients who’ve already had defective hips removed. The company still faces another 4,000 suits from patients who haven’t yet had their implants removed.
The accord, which ultimately could be worth more than $4 billion, doesn’t bar patients whose hips fail in the future from seeking compensation from the company.
The consolidated federal case is In re DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., ASR Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, 10-MD-2197, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Toledo).
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