Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has appealed the verdict of a Texas jury awarding five plaintiffs $498 million in a lawsuit alleging injury caused by DePuy’s metal-on-metal hip implants. All five litigants were Texas residents. The original verdict in case, the second of ten “bellwether” cases involving the DePuy Pinnacle implant, included approximately $140 million in compensatory damages and around $360 million in punitive damages. The trial judge subsequently reduced the damage award to about $150 million. Johnson & Johnson, currently facing approximately 9,000 similar claims based on the injuries caused by the Pinnacle hip implant, has appealed the verdict.
A bellwether trial if an increasing common practice in certain types of personal injury claims, particularly where the issues are highly contested and the potential number of claimants is high. Under the bellwether approach, a certain number of similar claims are selected as test cases and fully prepared for trial. The resulting verdicts or settlements in those cases are then used to inform how attorneys will proceed with the remaining claims.
In the DePuy Pinnacle hip implant controversy, three of the ten selected “bellwether” cases have gone to trial. In the first, Johnson & Johnson was found not liable by a Montana jury. The $498 million verdict came in May, 2016, in the second bellwether case. A third bellwether case saw a Dallas jury award six plaintiffs just over $1 billion in December, 2016, though the judge in that case subsequently reduced the damage award to approximately $500 million.