The High Court also heard yesterday DePuy wanted the hearing dates of more than 70 cases pending before the court to be set aside if its alternative resolution system was accepted by the court.
Cork solicitor Ernest Cantillon said the application by DePuy to the High Court, inviting those with cases against the company to take part in the settlement process and cases going through the system be adjourned, did not acknowledge the years of pain and suffering of many of those who have sued over the implants.
In an affidavit read to the High Court, Mr Cantillon said it was necessary to press to trial to obtain a true settlement value of a case.
He said DePuy was asking the court to put “unjustifiable pressure on plaintiffs”, many of whom are vulnerable and elderly, “to abandon their right of access to the courts in favour of a manifestly unfair alternative dispute resolution process”.
Mr Cantillon proposed an alternative process where the Bar Council would approve the panel of evaluators rather than DePuy.
“In the end, it is the question of the planning and resources which DePuy is willing to deploy to overcome the challeges of this litigation,” he said.
Mr Cantillon recalled the Irish Army had dealt with more than 16,000 deafness claims with damages paid out in the region of €300m.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross, after hearing submissions from legal representatives of more than 200 litigants, ruled that the 72 cases pending for hearing in the High Court will keep their place in the system, but that the court will not list any more DePuy cases for trial.
He gave all sides until December 16 to come up with an alternative resolution process and indicated he would consider proposals if solicitors for different clients wanted to come together and present a plan to the court.
The judge said he wanted a process that was fair on both sides: “These cases can all be resolved with a modicum of goodwill on all sides.”
The judge said there are more than 1,000 cases, and 100-plus so far have been settled. He said even listing two cases a week the High Court would only be able to take 80 cases a year, which would mean it could be 2022 by the time all the cases are dealt with. He said the system was not capable of dealing with the problem.
One man who has sued DePuy over a hip implant he received in 2008, was in court to plead for his case to go ahead in January.
Christopher Gaffney from Kinvara, Co Galway, said DePuy wanted his case and others “out of the way”. He said his life and career had been turned upside down “by this debacle including the slow, painstaking process to obtain a court date”.