Conroy is part of the executive team of lawyers representing clients in an MDL case involving DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip replacements in a trial that lasted two-and-a-half months. She and her team helped to secure a mass $1 billion verdict on December 1, 2016 on behalf of six clients that alleged their health was seriously injured by faulty DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip replacement devices.
The jury returned its verdict after just one day of deliberations.
“We were in trial five days a week from 9 to 5 and I will say the jury took very careful notes throughout. We started telling them what we going to prove and we proved it. So I am not surprised they were able to reach a verdict that quickly. And the evidence is just overwhelming,” Conroy says.
The evidence the jury found so compelling was information, testimony and documents that showed that Johnson & Johnson was aware of issues with the implants but chose to keep it to themselves.
At the same time doctors in the US were offered financial incentives to promote the device to their peers. Johnson & Johnson and DePuy referred to these doctors as “design surgeons”.
“What we saw was doctors who were very popular among their peers who were considered ‘thought leaders’,” says Conroy. “They were what was called a ‘design surgeon’.”
According to the trial transcript from VOLUME 2 - TRIAL TRANSCRIPT - OCTOBER 3, 2016, attorney Mark Lanier, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, in his closing remarks to the jury said, “This is a company that spends over almost $200 million on the design surgeons that don't really do anything!”
“They (DePuy) got hit for an $84 million dollar payment. Because the Department of Justice was after them under the anti-kickback laws for kickbacks to doctors, for an illegal payment scheme to these doctors,” said Lanier according to the transcript.
In 2007, the Department of Justice ordered DePuy to pay $84.7 million for violating anti-kick laws in the US for payments made to doctors to promote DePuy implant.
However, during the trial a DePuy employee denied the company had done anything wrong and said it had only paid the fine to settle the case and get rid of a “headache”.
At the trial, in the closing arguments, Attorney Lanier asked the jury to find for the plaintiffs on “Question 19: Aiding and Abetting (Johnson & Johnson) and Fraudulent Concealment”.
Specifically the question to the jury was did “Johnson & Johnson knowingly give substantial assistance or encouragement to the fraudulent concealment from Plaintiffs’ implanting physicians of DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., if any, related to Pinnacle Ultamet?”
The jury form indicates that the jurors all answered yes and agreed with the plaintiffs’ allegation that doctors had been given financial incentives.
“The part that is really shocking,” says Conroy, “is that Johnson & Johnson also lied about the science.”
One of the key findings of the trial was that the DePuy and J & J had knowingly supplied incorrect success rates for the device.
“They admitted they had made up the numbers,” says Conroy. “They admitted that at trial. They were confronted with the problem and they continued to use those statistics. They are significant admissions by both DePuy and Johnson and Johnson and their defense was that doctors don’t pay attention to those numbers.”
Specifically, the case is focused on a particular version of the Pinnacle hip system. It is the Ultamet version of the device which has a metal socket liner instead of a polyethylene or ceramic liner. It came to market without significant testing because it was similar to a variety that predated 1976.
The DePuy metal-on-metal implants contain a number of different metallurgic components including chromium cobalt. Friction produces metal debris which can impact a patient’s health. The risk of cancer has been investigated but as yet, there are no conclusive studies that confirm that it causes cancer in hip implant patients.
There are some 8,500 plaintiffs with DePuy implants now participating in MDL cases against Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy subsidiary. The claims allegedly found that the implants failed, and or, lead to severe health problems including pain, metal poisoning, tissue damage, cysts and tumors and further damage to the hip cavity where the implanted was placed.
This most recent verdict is the second in favor of the plaintiffs. Another trial is scheduled for next September, again in Dallas, Texas in front of the same judge. The plaintiffs in this December verdict were all from California.
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“Our clients are very happy but they have been through hell with these hips,” says Conroy. “They know this is a long process and they still have to go through an appeal but they are happy that the trial is over and that the jury found for them.”
LAS reached out to J & J for comment on the case but received no reply.
The plaintiffs and cases are Marvin Andrews (Cause No. 3:15-cv-03484-K), Kathleen Davis (Cause No. 3:15-cv-01767-K), Rosa Metzler (Cause No. 3:12-cv-02066-K), Judith Rodriguez (Cause No. 3:13-cv-3938-K), Lisa Standerfer (Cause No. 3:14-cv-01730-K) and Michael Weiser (Cause No. 3:13-cv-03631-K).