J&J ordered to pay in hip implant case

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A jury in Los Angeles on Friday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $8.3 million in damages to a Montana man in the first of some 10,000 lawsuits pending against the medical products maker in connection with a now-recalled artificial hip.

The 12-person panel declined to issue punitive damages, however, saying the company's DePuy orthopedics unit, which made and marketed the all-metal device, did not act with fraud or malice. The implant, known as the Articular Surface Replacement, was recalled in mid-2010.

In a statement, the company described the verdict as "mixed," and said it planned to appeal the damage award. It disputed the jury's finding that the ASR was defectively designed.

It was impossible to say what the verdict, which came in a Los Angeles state court, would mean for other ASR-related cases. A trial on a second lawsuit is scheduled to begin Monday in Chicago, with other cases expected to proceed later this year.

Some lawyers and industry analysts have estimated that the suits ultimately would cost Johnson & Johnson billions of dollars to resolve.

The ASR belonged to a class of once-widely used hip replacements whose cup and ball components were both made of metal. The ASR's design caused the cup and ball to strike against each other as a patient moved, resulting in the shedding of metallic debris. That debris inflamed and damaged tissue and bone, causing pain and, in some cases, permanent damages to patients.

In its decision, the panel ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay Loren Kransky some $338,000 to cover medical expenses and $8 million for pain and emotional suffering.

Mr. Kransky's lawyers, citing what they described as DePuy executives' unethical behavior in failing to warn doctors and patients of the device's defects, asked jurors to punish Johnson & Johnson by awarding their client $36 million to $144 million. Jurors declined to do so. Lawyers representing the former prison guard nonetheless hailed the verdict.

"This is a victory for Mr. Kransky and thousands of other badly damaged ASR patients who have yet to get their day in court," Kransky lawyer Brian Panish said in a statement. "Jurors across the country will return similar verdicts until J&J takes full responsibility."

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