Johnson & Johnson Hip Recall and Lawsuit FAQs

Many elderly people turn to hip replacement surgery to help alleviate hip pain caused by arthritis or an injury. During the procedure, the patient’s hip is removed and replaced with an artificial hip system. Patients have a number of different replacement hip models to choose from.  Unfortunately, many of these models have been linked to painful complications. Johnson & Johnson (J&J), one of the largest manufacturers of hip replacement systems, has sold several replacement hips that have been linked to complications and product recalls.

Q. Is my Johnson & Johnson replacement hip defective?

It depends on the specific model of your replacement hip.  J&J, through its subsidiary DePuy Orthopedics, sells a number of different hip replacement systems.  Five of these models in particular are known to have issues: the ASR (Artificial Resurfacing System) XL Acetabula system, the ASR Hip Resurfacing system, the Adept, the Pinnacle Complete, and the Pinnacle Ultamet. Except for the Pinnacle Complete, all of these models feature a metal-on-metal design.

J&J recalled the ASR and Adept models after their all-metal design was shown to have a high failure rate. While the Adept was only available in foreign markets, tens of thousands of Americans received ASR hip implants before the recall took effect. The Pinnacle models, on the other hand, haven’t been recalled. However, thousands of patients have filed lawsuits against J&J, claiming the models are defective.

Q. Why were the J&J hip systems recalled?

A recall happens when a product is removed from the market due to a potentially harmful defect.  Johnson & Johnson’s all-metal ASR hip systems were recalled because of their high failure rate. While the models were designed to last up to 15 years, many of the hips had to be replaced after only a few years. The limited lifespan of the hip systems was mainly due to their “metal-on-metal” design. The friction between the systems’ metal components caused tiny metal particles to be released in the space surrounding the hip implant. J&J’s Adept model was recalled for similar reasons.

The longevity issue eventually led J&J to announce that it would no longer sell “metal-on-metal” or “metal-on-ceramic” hip systems, like the Pinnacle Complete. While the Pinnacle Ultamet hasn’t been recalled, its metal-on-metal design could lead to problems similar to those of the ASR and Adept models.

Q. What are the injuries and symptoms associated with the Johnson & Johnson hip recall?

Ultimately, complications from a defective hip may require you to have another hip replacement surgery you should have never needed. The problems associated with Johnson & Johnson’s defective models include:

  • Dislocated joints
  • Broken bones surrounding the hip
  • Swelling, inflammation, and increased fluid around the hip joint, making walking painful.
  • Metallosis (metal poisoning) caused by the grinding of metal substances in the hip.  This friction releases metal components into the blood and tissues near the hip. Metallosis may contribute to circulatory and cognitive problems.
  • Loose ASR implants within your body

Q. Do I have any legal claims against Johnson & Johnson?

If you were injured as a result of a J&J hip recall, the company may cover your out-of-pocket medical expenses along with any wages lost as a result of the additional surgery. However, it won’t compensate you for any pain and suffering caused by the defective hip or the additional surgery. To recover these costs, patients can file a product liability lawsuit against the company.

Under product liability law, manufacturers and sellers can be held liable for any injuries caused by dangerous or defective products they place in the hands of consumers. Product liability claims are based on state laws and hold manufacturers accountable under the legal theories of negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty. Even if your replacement hip wasn’t part of a Johnson & Johnson hip recall, you may still have a viable product liability claim.

Q. Have there been any lawsuits regarding the problematic J&J hip systems, and if so, what were the results?

Around 10,750 ASR related lawsuits have been filed nationwide against Johnson & Johnson.  While a number of these suits have been settled out of court, only a few ASR cases have reached a verdict. One of such cases resulted in a multi-million dollar award for the plaintiff.  In addition, there have been around 4,200 Pinnacle Ultamet lawsuits filed in federal court alone.

Q. How can I start or join a lawsuit?

A class action is a lawsuit filed by a group of individuals who suffered a similar injury from the same defendant. The court requires certification for a class to proceed with their legal claim. As of July 2013, there has been no class certification for injuries related to the Johnson & Johnson hip recall or the J&J Pinnacle models. However, a class action suit may be an option in the future.

In the meantime, those who have experienced hip failure can file an individual suit against the company for their injuries. Patients who have suffered from J&J hip complications should seek legal counsel to learn about their legal rights or initiate a lawsuit. A product liability attorney will be able to evaluate the strength of your case and instruct you about your options.