J&J to Pay as Much as $420 Million More in ASR Hip Accord

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Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay as much as $420 million more to resolve lawsuits over recalled hip implants that were excluded in 2013 from a $2.5 billion settlement of claims that the devices were defective and caused metal poisoning in patients.

J&J’s DePuy unit agreed to push back the deadline for recipients of the company’s ASR implants to file settlement claims to Jan. 31 of this year, according to a filing Friday in federal court in Toledo, Ohio. That will allow as many as 1,400 patients who’ve had ASR hips removed since 2013 to seek about $300,000 each in compensation under the original 2013 accord.

“By extending the benefits of the previously announced U.S. Settlement Program to an additional group of ASR patients, we are again providing fair compensation” to artificial hip recipients “without the delay and uncertainty of protracted litigation,” Mindy Tinsley, a DePuy spokeswoman, said in an e-mail Friday.

“J&J has seen the handwriting on the wall about these hip cases and they’ve figured it out: It’s better to settle all of these suits and get this debacle behind them,” said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s business and law schools who teaches about class-action settlements.

Coupled with the original accord, the new settlements will resolve more than 90 percent of current hip-removal suits, plaintiffs’ lawyers said. The extension pushes the accord’s total cash compensation payments to about $3 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Total Cost

The total cost of the settlements over the ASR line, which stands for articular surface replacements, will exceed $4 billion by the time J&J resolves all the implant cases, Carl Tobias, who teaches product-liability law at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said last year.

J&J and DePuy recalled 93,000 ASR hip implants worldwide in August 2010, saying 12 percent failed within five years. Internal J&J documents showed 37 percent of ASR hips failed after 4.6 years. The failure rate in Australia in 2012 was found to be 44 percent over seven years of use.

J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, touted the ASR metal-on-metal implants, first sold in the U.S. in 2005, as a design that would last 20 years and offer greater range of motion, according to court filings.

As failures rose, patients complained the hips caused dislocations and pain, and forced them to have removal surgeries. They also alleged the chromium-and-cobalt implants were defectively designed, allowing metal ions to build up in the bloodstream.

Hip Verdicts

Tinsley said in her statement that the original settlement program has resolved more than 7,500 suits over the devices. Steven Skikos, who led a group of plaintiffs’ lawyers that helped negotiate the accords, said only 2 percent of those eligible for the first round of settlements rejected J&J’s offer.

“We are pleased we were able to put together this agreement” to bring more ASR patients into the settlement, Skikos said Friday in an e-mail.

J&J’s settlement came after a California jury concluded in 2013 that a retired prison guard deserved $8.3 million in damages over his failed hip implant. The panel found the device’s design was flawed and that DePuy officials failed to properly warn about its risks.

Nurse Rejected

That same year, J&J persuaded a Chicago jury to reject a nurse’s request for at least $5 million in damages over her failed ASR hip.

Earlier this month, a jury in Tulsa, Oklahoma, ordered J&J to pay $2.5 million in damages to a woman who alleged her ASR hip was defectively designed. The woman had opted out of the settlement. Jurors in that case, however, rejected her claims that J&J failed to properly warn patients about the hips’ risks.

Under the original settlement plan, J&J officials set an August 2013 deadline for hip recipients who had the devices removed to file compensation claims.

The company faced more than 12,000 U.S. lawsuits over the devices, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing last year.

Some of the remaining cases involved people who rejected J&J’s offer as too low while others included patients who still have ASR implants. J&J has refused to settle those cases and any claims outside the U.S. as part of the original accord.

Dick Harpootlian, a South Carolina-based lawyer for a woman who had two ASR hips removed, said his client rebuffed J&J’s settlement offer as inadequate.

“The surgical removal of these devices left her in a wheelchair and we’re looking forward to having a South Carolina jury decide what would be just compensation for her injuries,” Harpootlian said Monday.

The consolidated federal case is In re DePuy Orthopedics Inc., ASR Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, 10-MD-2197, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Toledo).

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