A Texas federal judge has reduced the more than $1 billion in punitive damages a jury awarded to Plaintiffs who claimed Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. rushed a faulty hip implant to market. Each of the six Plaintiffs in the third bellwether trial over DePuy’s Pinnacle Ultamet hip implant received the jury’s awards of between $4 million and $6 million in compensatory damages, plus medical expenses, under judgment entered by U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade.
The punitive damages awarded by the jury on Dec. 1 were reduced by close to half. J&J and DePuy are now on the hook for about $543 million in combined damages. The jury had awarded $168 million in punitive damages to each of the Plaintiffs.
Judge Kinkeade said under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution limits how much a Plaintiff can recover in punitive damages, and he capped the punitive awards at a multiple of about nine times the amount of their individual compensatory damages.
Individual punitive damages figures under the judgment range from about $72.5 million to more than $109 million, totaling about $510 million in punitive damages. Shortly after judgment was entered, the Plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal targeted at the reduced damages awards, saying the district court should have entered judgment for the full amount of punitive damages found by the jury. Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm, one of the lawyers for the Plaintiffs, said:
Judge Kinkeade has always been a conservative law-and-order judge. He reads the Supreme Court as capping punitives at a 9-to-1 multiplier. He followed his conservative read of the law, but we believe J&J should have to pay full punitives. So we appealed.
The verdict was returned in less than a day after a two-month trial. Jurors found J&J and DePuy had negligently designed the hip implant, failed to warn surgeons about dangerous conditions related to the implant, and concealed the implant’s risk. Four of the Plaintiffs’ spouses were also each awarded $1 million for loss of consortium and a total of $1 million in punitive damages. Lawyers for the Defense say they will file their own appeal based on what it contends were numerous errors in pre-trial and trial proceedings.
The Plaintiffs are represented by Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm; Richard Arsenault of Neblett Beard & Arsenault; Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy; and Khaldoun Baghdadi of Walkup Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger, among others. These lawyers have done a tremendous job in this litigation.
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