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Johnson & Johnson Wins Hip Implant Jury Trial in Chicago

Attorney Michael Kelly
Attorney Michael Kelly, representing plaintiff Loren Kransky, holds up an ASR XL hip implant made by Johnson & Johnson during his opening statement to the jury at the trial of Kransky v. DePuy, at the California Superior Court in Los Angeles on January 25, 2013. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

A Johnson & Johnson unit defeated at trial an Illinois woman’s claim she was harmed by a defectively designed metal-on-metal hip implant.

The jury of seven women and five men in state court in Chicago deliberated for slightly more than a day before returning its verdict yesterday in favor of DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Plaintiff Carol Strum’s lawyers had asked the panel for an award of at least $5 million.

Jurors had sent a note earlier yesterday to Cook County Circuit Judge Deborah Mary Dooling, who presided over the five-week trial, asking if they must be unanimous in their verdict. Four jurors wanted to side with Strum, forewoman Ameenah Muhammad-Williams said outside the courtroom after the trial was over.

“There was a majority that was for DePuy and a minority that was for the plaintiff,” said Muhammad-Williams, 55, of suburban Park Forest, Illinois. “Their case was not strong enough for all 12 of us to agree.”

Strum’s case was the second to go trial of almost 11,000 filed in the U.S. The J&J unit on March 8 was ordered to pay $8.3 million in compensatory damages by a Los Angeles jury that found the design of its ASR XL hip implant was defective and that the company had properly warned of associated risks. The jury rejected punitive damages in that case.

World’s Largest

Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is the world’s largest seller of health-care products.

“DePuy’s actions concerning the product were appropriate and responsible, including the program to address patients’ medical costs related to the recall,” Lorie Gawreluk, a DePuy spokeswoman, said in a statement e-mailed after the verdict.

J&J recalled the implants in August 2010 after 93,000 were sold, when it said 12 percent failed within five years. Data last year showed 44 percent failed in Australia within seven years. Analysts have said the cases could cost J&J billions of dollars.

Strum, a 54-year-old nurse, had an ASR XL implanted in her in 2008. It was replaced three years later.

While her attorneys told jurors the chromium and cobalt implant shed metal into her body, poisoning tissue and sending metal ions into her blood stream, defense lawyers argued Strum had a hyper-sensitivity to the implant and that she got no pain relief when it was replaced with a different device.

Defense lawyers Richard Sarver and Michael Conner told jurors April 15 that their client’s product wasn’t defectively designed.

Jurors Questions

“I really do feel for Mrs. Strum,” her lead lawyer, Denman Heard, said after the verdict was read. “We’ll go and talk about what we’re going to do. This is one of many cases. We’ll be back soon.”

In finding for DePuy, Strum’s jury also rejected Heard’s plea to impose punitive damages.

“There were a lot of unanswered questions,” said juror Charles Adeyanju, 35, of Chicago, who had also favored finding for Strum. “It just wasn’t substantial enough,” he said of her case.

While the jurors siding with Strum stopped to answer questions, others on the panel declined to comment on their deliberations.

About 500 of the cases against DePuy are pending in Illinois. Heard said he will try another later this year.

The case is Strum v. DePuy, 2011-L-9352, Circuit Court of Cook County (Chicago).

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