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1st J&J DePuy Hip Replacement Lawsuit Goes to Trial

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

Johnson & Johnson faces claims it developed a metal hip replacement that had several design defects. In a major hip replacement lawsuit, a plaintiff (one of 10,000) accuses top-level officials in J&J's DePuy Orthopaedics unit of hiding the defects from doctors and patients.

The gist of this product liability lawsuit is that DePuy created a hip replacement with stability issues and that also leaked toxic debris into patients' bloodstreams. But instead of notifying doctors and patients, the company allegedly kept silent.

The lead/liaison counsel for the California cases, the first to go to trial, alleges that DePuy knew about the risks of its product, but deliberately hid them. The company could potentially face billions of dollars in damages if found liable.

At issue in the California DePuy hip replacement lawsuit is just how much DePuy designers and management knew about the alleged defects. The design team says that they evaluated the risk and found it to be a "minimum."

However, emails between company officials allegedly acknowledge studies that show the product's defect and the need for a product redesign. However, the company is accused of never making these changes given financial and business reasons, reports Bloomberg.

To resolve the lawsuit, J&J had reportedly offered each of the 10,000 plaintiffs $200,000 to settle their claims, which would have added up to more than $2 billion in damages. Lawyers for the hip recipients rejected the offer.

The trial is underway in Los Angeles, and you can expect plenty of expert witnesses describing the product's alleged defects as well as the content of internal emails. That's because medical device product liability lawsuits are extremely complex and involve proof and terminology that most laypeople do not understand.

For example, the first person called to the stand -- a man who led a DePuy design team -- told jurors about the results of a "failure mode and effect analysis," Bloomberg reports. Expert witnesses will likely be used to help clarify jurors' understanding of what that means.

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