Judge Slices $1 Billion Hip Implant Award in Half

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DALLAS (CN) — A Texas federal judge Tuesday sliced in half a $1 billion jury award against DePuy Orthopaedics and Johnson & Johnson for their metal-on-metal hip implants, citing concerns about due process in awarding such massive punitive damages.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade issued final judgment in cases brought by six California plaintiffs who claimed the Pinnacle artificial hips would wear, shed and poison them. A jury in December awarded the plaintiffs $32 million in actual damages and more than $1 billion in punitive damages, concluding the implants were defectively designed and that the defendants failed to warn customers of the risks. Johnson & Johnson is DePuy’s corporate parent.

Kinkeade left undisturbed the jury award of actual damages of up to $6 million to each defendant, but wiped out approximately $500 million in punitive damages.

“(C)onstitutional considerations limit the amount a plaintiff may recover in punitive damages,” the identical, 3-page final judgments state.

Kinkeade cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 425 (2003): “(F)ew awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process. … Single-digit multipliers are more likely to comport with due process, while still achieving the State’s goals of deterrence and retribution.”

Kinkeade’s reduction means the plaintiffs will be awarded punitive damages that are less than 10 times the actual damages awarded.

Defense attorney John H. Beisner, with Skadden Arps in Washington, D.C., said Johnson & Johnson will “continue to fully defend” against the claims.

“Now that judgment has been entered in these cases, we can move forward in seeking appellate review of the legal errors with the trial,” he said in a statement.

The defendants still face several thousand Pinnacle lawsuits that have been consolidated in Dallas for multidistrict litigation.

The jury’s $1 billion verdict dwarfed all previous Pinnacle verdicts. Ten months ago, a federal jury awarded $498 million to five Texans.

The first Pinnacle case to go to trial was in October 2014, when a federal jury ruled for of the defendants and the plaintiffs took nothing.