Settlements for faulty hips may reach €500k

A lawyer representing upwards of 300 clients fitted with faulty hip implants in Ireland expects the first cases to be settled by Christmas for sums well in excess of the reported €220,000 earmarked for individuals who sued and settled in the US.

Peter McDonnell of Dublin legal firm McDonnell and Associates said that, given the young age profile of many of his clients and the lifetime loss of earnings they may endure, he would expect any settlements to be considerably higher, perhaps up to €500,000.

“Some of the people I represent are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, so you could be talking about 30 years’ loss of earnings, pain, and suffering,” said Mr McDonnell. “Some of their surgeons have told them they will have great difficulty performing any future revisions because the defective implant caused so much damage to the bone.”

The cases are against DePuy Orthopaedics, a division of the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices and Diagnostics Group.

Mr McDonnell said to date, DePuy had accepted liability in up to 10 cases he represents and were still considering others.

The plaintiffs are patients fitted with DePuy ASR hip implant systems sold since 2003 and recalled by the company in Ireland in Aug 2010.

The recall followed research by the Britain-based National Joint Registry, which found that 12%-13% of patients who received the devices had to undergo revision surgery (hip replacement) within five years.

A subsequent British study involving more than 500 patients found failure rates of up to 50% at six years. Hip implants generally have a lifespan of up to 15 years before revision surgery is required.

In Ireland, 3,282 patients were fitted with the faulty hips. More than 500 of these patients have had MRIs and 442 have had revision surgery, according to the HSE’s figures.

Per million population, surgeons in Ireland fitted more of the implants than any other country worldwide.

Three women involved in the first US settlement against DePuy at a Nevada Court last year were reported to have received around €150,000 each.

However, Bloomberg reported this week that Johnson & Johnson has tentatively agreed to a settlement that could reach up to €3bn to resolve more than 7,500 lawsuits filed by patients injured by the flawed all-metal replacement hip. This would mean average pay-outs of approximately €260,000, but varying depending on patient age and medical condition.

The agreement is believed not to bar patients whose artificial hips fail in the future from seeking compensation.

The settlement is expected to be announced next week in a federal court in Toledo, Ohio.

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