Medical Devices: The Devil is in the Details

From a fever thermometer to a heart-lung bypass machine, technology helps people heal and live to see another sunrise. Recently, hip implant devices have made news not for how they helped — but how they hurt — the people who relied on them.

In 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics recalled its all-metal Articular Surface Replacement (A.S.R.) hip implant. Since 2005, when the product became available in the United States, reports of early failure were received by the company.

In recent litigation, company documents were produced that show DePuy, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, estimated 40 percent of patients who received the A.S.R. would need surgery to replace the device within five years.

While design flaws are hopefully eliminated in the prototype stage, in this case, design defects of the A.S.R. turned up in the pain, injury and inflammation caused when the socket and ball of the device improperly ground together, shedding metal debris into the bodies of those who received the devices.

This year, personal injury cases involving the A.S.R. have come to trial with the following results:

  • In March, a Montana man was awarded $8.3 million in medical expenses and pain and suffering. The timing of the case was accelerated because the plaintiff had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
  • In April, an Illinois woman lost her case against Johnson and Johnson for injury she suffered from the hip implant.
  • In June, a judge affirmed the $8.3 million verdict in the initial DePuy case.

With thousands of these cases yet to be heard, many more juries will consider the suffering found in the details of small devices meant to help, not hurt.

If you or a loved one is injured by a medical device, be sure to get reputable North Carolina legal counsel.

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