Two DePuy Hip Replacement Lawsuits Combined for Bellwether Trial
New Jersey Judge Brian R. Martinotti has ruled that a combined bellwether trial of two DePuy hip replacement lawsuits will take place, after denying a motion filed by DePuy and Johnson & Johnson attorneys to split the cases and schedule two separate trial dates. Judge Martinotti disagreed with the defendants’ claims that combining the cases together would be unjust, potentially causing the jury to form a biased opinion and confuse the facts. The defendants also contended that a consolidated case would cause the trial to last longer than if the lawsuits were tried separately.
The bellwether trial is set to begin on January 13, 2014.
Bellwether trials are used by courts when a large group of plaintiffs file lawsuits based on similar claims. The bellwether trials are meant to serve as a litmus test for how a jury will respond the arguments from both sides, and to predict the outcomes of future cases.
At least 650 DePuy hip replacement lawsuits have been consolidated into multi-county litigation (MCL) in Bergen County, New Jersey, under Judge Martinotti. The product liability cases of Barbara Gullo and Kevin Couglin were selected for a bellwether trial, as Judge Martinotti felt they were representative of the majority of lawsuits filed under the MCL. The cases allege that the DePuy hip replacement metal-on-metal implant was dangerous and defective, causing plaintiffs to be at risk for loosening and failure. The plaintiffs allege that the hip implant is prone to releasing microscopic metallic debris, after the metal parts rub against each other during standard usage.
In August 2010, a voluntary DePuy ASR recall was issued by the company, due to the high level of implant failures.
New Jersey DePuy ASR hip replacement lawsuits
Gullo and Couglin’s cases were combined because Judge Martinotti noted several legal and factual issues that were comparable enough to justify the consolidation.
Similarities between the two cases selected for bellwether trials include:
- Both cases are governed by New York law
- Each plaintiff experienced DePuy ASR hip replacement surgery resulting from degenerative joint disease
- Both plaintiffs had to undergo necessary revision surgery resulting from pain and increased metal ion levels
- Guidelines for the use of each plaintiff’s implant were the same at the time of their surgeries
- The surgeon in each case worked with the same sales distributor
Plaintiff Barbara Gullo underwent her first revision surgery in September 2011, and due to an infection, required a second surgery in October 2011. In November 2011, Gullo suffered a heart attack, which she claims was caused by her need to have multiple revision surgeries, despite her high risk factors. Plaintiff Kevin Coughlin received a hip replacement in June 2009. Initially the surgery appeared successful, until the product recall was issued in April 2011, and Coughlin started to experience pain. He underwent revision surgery, and blood test results showed elevated chromium and cobalt levels. After beginning to experience right inguinal area swelling in October 2012, he was referred to a urologist, for a currently undiagnosed condition.
Other pending DePuy hip replacement lawsuits
An estimated 37,000 patients in the United States were impacted by the DePuy ASR recall. In addition to the MCL filed by plaintiffs in New Jersey state court, more than 7,800 DePuy hip lawsuits have been filed in federal court. These cases have been consolidated under MDL 2197, and are currently proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, under Judge David A. Katz.
However, plaintiffs in the New Jersey MCL aren’t the only DePuy hip replacement lawsuits filed in state court. Approximately 2,000 cases were centralized in California state court. The first trial was scheduled to begin in December 2012, but both parties reached an agreement in August 2012, with plaintiffs receiving a settlement of around $200,000 each.
- Superior Court of New Jersey, DePuy ASR Hip Impants Litigation, Order, http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/mass-tort/depuy/sep-trial-motion.pdf
- Superior Court of New Jersey, DePuy ASR Hip Implant Litigation, http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/mass-tort/depuy/index.htm