Perhaps no major medical device recall has affected more seniors in recent years than the DePuy hip implants. Many local residents were convinced to have the implant surgery by their doctors who then used products of their choosing–sometimes certain metal-on-metal devices. It was only later that some of those seniors began having medical problems connected to the implant.
All of this eventually led to the recall of two version of DePuy metal-on-metal hip implants after the failure rate of the devices rose well beyond acceptable. The recall was a few years ago and since then thousands of patients who received the devices have filed suit seeking compensation for the significant harm caused by the products. The legal claims usually suggest that the products were defectively designed and that the company failed to properly warn consumers of the dangers of using them.
It is only recently that the first of those suits has made it to trial. The case involves a 65-year old retired prison guard who has suffered various medical setbacks which he claims is connected to the defective DePuy hip implant that was installed in his body. More specifically his complaint made defective design and failure to warn allegations against DePuy and its parent–Johnson & Johnson.
According to a Bloomberg News article, an expert witness for the defense testified at that first trial last week. In so doing he claimed, not unexpectedly, that one potential problem with the devices (the release of metallic particles into the bloodstream and tissue) did not cause the plaintiff any harm. This particular expert was a toxicologist who argued that cobalt, the substance flaking off the implant and entering the plaintiff, “is not an issue to be concerned about at concentrations observed in patients with implants.”
However, on cross-examination the plaintiff’s attorney in the case questioned the expert relentlessly on a wide range of issue which persuasively suggest that the professional has a clear bias in favor of the defendant-company. For one thing, the toxicologist’s own company has already been paid millions by Johnson & Johnson to investigate the situation and testify.
The doctor has a track record of working with large companies who are accused of harming community members as a result of toxins. For example, he represented companies in China who were alleged to have caused serious injury as a result of dumping chromium in rural drinking water.
In fact, there was significant controversy in that matter because the expert orchestrated the publication of an article in a journal claiming to support the findings of no harm caused by the chromium. However, the article was eventually pulled from the magazine when it was learned that the toxicologist was involved in its creation while working for the very companies accused of the pollution. In other words, the conflict of interest was obvious.
It will be important for all those with an interest in these hip implant cases to follow along with this first trial to see how it ends and potentially impacts future cases.
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