Plaintiffs in a heated court room battle against Johnson and Johnson’s De Puy, the manufacturer of an allegedly defective artificial hip implants, scored an impressive victory last week when Judge Brian R. Martinotti, a New Jersey Superior Court judge, denied Johnson and Johnson International’s attempt to separate the bellwether trials of Barbara Gullo and Kevin Coughlin.
The issue was whether or not the two cases should be tried separately based upon factual differences raised by the defendants who claimed that if the cases were tried together it would create confusion for the jury. The plaintiffs argued that the cases both shared the same claims-essentially that De Puy failed to warn them of various defects inherent in the design of the implants. The plaintiff’s lawyers argued that it would be better to have one jury reach two verdicts rather than potentially have inconsistent verdicts in deciding the same issues.
Barbara Gullo Experienced Problems After Hip Surgery and Ultimately Suffered a Heart Attack
Barbara Gullo is a married 72 year old woman who was working as a secretary when she began experiencing problems after she underwent hip implant surgery with the De Puy ASR XL in December 2008. In August 2010, De Puy recalled all ASR XL implants due to complaints that patients were developing metal poisoning. Ms. Gullo then had her blood test checked on four separate occasions, each showing that she had increased levels of both chromium and cobalt.
In September 2011, she underwent a hip implant revision surgery which resulted in an infection requiring a second revision surgery in October 2011. A month later, she suffered a severe heart attack. In spite of a number of alleged risk factors; Ms. Gullo attributes her heart attack to her multiple surgeries. In addition to pain and suffering and other damages-Ms. Gullo is seeking lost wages. Her husband however is not making a claim for loss of spousal consortium.
Kevin Coughlin Found Chromium and Cobalt in His Blood Stream
In contrast, Mr. Coughlin, a married man, experienced hip pain since the 1990s. He underwent a total hip replacement surgery in 2009 and recovered without complications. In April 2011, after the De Puy recall and after having blood tests that demonstrated elevated levels of both chromium and cobalt he underwent a hip revision surgery. Unlike Ms. Gullo, his spouse is seeking loss of consortium damages.
Based upon the foregoing and additional factual distinctions, the defendants wanted both cases tried separately by two different juries. So far two ASR XL trials have taken place in the United States. Each took approximately six weeks with two weeks being dedicated to case specific testimony rather than generic testimony. In the two cases, one had 17 company witnesses and 10 expert witnesses and the other had 11 company witnesses and 10 expert witnesses.
The First Multiple Plaintiff Case in the De Puy Litigation
Judge Martinotti ordered the trials be consolidated opining that it would be better to eliminate the inconvenience of double litigation on the same facts and transactions and that the factual differences raised by the defendants were not significant to warrant having separate trials based upon the amount of anticipated generic testimony.
According to Ellen Relkin, the attorney for Mr. Coughlin, “this will be the first joint trial of multiple plaintiffs in the De Puy litigation.” Our law firm is currently co-counseling with Ms. Relkin in the Stryker hip implant litigation that is also pending in front of Judge Martinotti.
(This case is governed by US law and is being tried in New Jersey state.)
Author Spencer Aronfeld has enjoyed powerful courtroom victories over Walt Disney World, Wild Oats, P.A.C. Construction, Fedan Tire, and Todel Apartments and has gained international recognition as a lawyer for the people.