A couple weeks ago, this blog discussed whether, according to Texas law, medical device manufacturers were "medical providers" for the purposes of plaintiffs filing products liability suits. While that was a legal procedural issue that may have seemed esoteric to some, a recent development regarding medical device manufacturers may give readers a more concrete feeling. Recently, a federal jury in Dallas found a large medical device manufacturer liable for damages to injured individuals.
Johnson & Johnson is one of the largest manufacturers of medical devices in the United States. It, and one of its subsidiary companies, were sued by eight specified plaintiffs for alleged defects in hip-replacement devices made by the company. It is reported that several thousand of others have alleged damages from these devices as well, and are engaged in similar, but separate, litigation in Texas. After a trial that lasted over two months, a jury deliberated for a week and returned a verdict against the defendant corporations for $502 million, including over $360 million in punitive damages.
Reportedly, the jury held the subsidiary company, DePuy Orthopaedics, liable for failure to warn consumers as well as defective design, Johnson & Johnson for negligent undertaking and both companies for fraud and gross negligence. As is usual in such cases, the defendants have indicated that they will appeal the verdict.
While such large awards should not be understood as typical, and punitive damages may be reduced on appeal, this case illustrates what can happen when people who have suffered serious injury due to defective medical devices are determined to hold companies responsible for their placing of those devices into the stream of commerce. Those who find themselves in such a situation may want to consider discussing the possibilities with a Texas personal injury attorney.
Source: texaslawyer.com, "Federal Jury Issues $502M Verdict Against Johnson & Johnson, DePuy," Miriam Rozen, March 17, 2016.