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J&J Hip Replacement Plaintiff Lawyers Named by Judge

Six plaintiffs’ lawyers will lead federal litigation against Johnson & Johnson over recalled devices used in hip-replacement surgeries.

U.S. District Judge David A. Katz in Toledo, Ohio, appointed the plaintiffs’ executive committee on Jan. 26 after dozens of lawyers vied for the positions. The group will make major decisions on the litigation, which has been consolidated before Katz for pretrial proceedings.

Lawyers for patients said they expect thousands of lawsuits over the ASR XL Acetabular System, which J&J’s DePuy Orthopaedics unit recalled on Aug. 26.

New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J, the world’s largest health-care products company, and Warsaw, Indiana-based DePuy said they recalled the devices because researchers found some patients needed a second operation, or “revision surgery,” after five years at rates higher than the company expected.

“There is no doubt there will be thousands of cases,” said the committee’s co-lead counsel, attorney Ellen Relkin of Weitz & Luxenberg in New York. “The damages will be in the billions of dollars.”

The group includes Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss LLP in New York; Mark P. Robinson Jr. of Robinson, Calcagnie & Robinson in Newport Beach, California; R. Eric Kennedy of Weisman Kennedy & Berris in Cleveland; Ben W. Gordon Jr. of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor in Pensacola, Florida; and Steven J. Skikos of Skikos Crawford Skikos Joseph & Millican in San Francisco and Cleveland. Skikos is the other co-lead counsel.

Product Recalls

DePuy recalled both the ASR XL Acetabular System, a total hip-replacement product approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August 2005, and the DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System, which wasn’t used in the U.S. A total of 93,000 were implanted, including 37,000 in the U.S., according to the company. The U.S. implants are the subject of the litigation.

The company is satisfied that the process “to address the issues raised by this litigation is moving forward,” said Mindy Tinsley, a DePuy spokeswoman.

“DePuy remains committed to covering reasonable and customary costs of testing and treatment for patients who need services, including revision surgery if it is necessary, associated with the ASR recall,” she said.

Researchers in the U.K. found that after five years, 13 percent of patients with complete hip replacements and 12 percent with resurfacing devices needed a second operation, J&J officials said in a statement announcing the recall.

DePuy’s previous analyses of post-market data -- including national joint registries, company-sponsored clinical trials, and internal complaints data -- had shown lower revision rates, according to the company.

Value of Injuries

Relkin said the “major fight” will be over the value of injuries to patients.

“If J&J is going to be reasonable and compensate the injuries accordingly, the litigation may be over in two years,” Relkin said. “We need to follow our clients’ ongoing medical course to get a better appreciation of the gravity of their respective injuries. Many folks have just had or have revisions scheduled. Only time will tell how they fare.”

Katz oversaw thousands of lawsuits filed by women who blamed their blood clots, heart attacks or strokes on J&J’s Ortho Evra birth-control patches. Most of those settled confidentially.

The lead lawyers for DePuy also represented J&J in the Ortho Evra litigation. They are Robert Tucker of Tucker, Ellis & West in Cleveland and Susan Sharko of Drinker Biddle & Reath in Florham Park, New Jersey.

The case is In re: DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. ASR Hip Implant Products, 10-md-2197, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Toledo).

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