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Strum v. DePuy: Verdict reached – A win for Johnson & Johnson

Faulty hip specialist Bozena Michalowska provides an update on the Strum V DePuy case

19 April 2013

An Illinois jury has returned their verdict in the case of Carol Strum v. DePuy. The jury of 7 women and 5 men deliberated for just over a day after the 5 week trial before finding in favour of DePuy Orthopaedics Inc, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday 16th April.

Ms Strum’s case, the first of the so called bellwether trials, followed on from the Kransky v DePuy case, which was heard during March this year, in which the jury found in favour of the plaintiff Mr Kransky awarding him $8.3 million US dollars.

The forewoman of the jury in Ms Strum’s case, told press outside the court room that the verdict was by no means unanimous, with 4 jurors wanting to side with Strum. However, the remaining 8 jurors were persuaded by DePuy’s legal team that the ASR product, with which Ms Strum was implanted, had not been designed defectively and could not be held responsible for the adverse reaction suffered by Ms Strum.

This verdict will come as a surprise to those who followed the earlier case of Kransky v DePuy, during which documentary evidence was shown to the jury, which led them to conclude that the ASR hip with which Mr Kransky was implanted had been defectively designed and had caused Mr Kransky’s debilitating injuries. Ms Strum, a relatively healthy 54-year-old nurse, had her ASR XL implanted in 2008. It was replaced 3 years later.

Expert witness evidence presented by the DePuy team appeared to indicate that there was very little wear on Ms Strum’s retrieved ASR implant. It is understood that this was used by the defence team to argue that the implant had not performed defectively, that Ms Strum had not been exposed to excessive wear debris and that her injuries could not be linked with the ASR implant.

After hearing the verdict, a DePuy spokeswoman, Lorie Gawreluk, made the following statement: “DePuy’s actions concerning the product were appropriate and responsible”. A juror, who had listened to the full trial, Mr Adeyanju commented that, “there were a lot of unanswered questions” and that despite personally finding in favour of Strum, that her case, “just wasn’t substantial enough”.

The verdict in Ms Strum’s case will be highly significant for the many US Claimants whose claims have yet to go to trial. As a bellwether trial, Ms Strum’s case was intended to be used to decide facts common to other plaintiff’s cases, including the value of the claims.

This verdict will be encouraging for the Defendants as they move on to defend the next in a line of almost 11,000 claims filed against them, however, the Claimants’ legal teams will have a better understanding of how the Defendants are going to seek to defend the actions against them and are expected to focus in particular on ensuring that the next jury are presented with a comprehensive picture of the way in which wear on explants can be measured. To this extent, the battle lines are drawn, with one win for DePuy and one win for the plaintiffs; the battle will now continue, with 500 further cases pending in Illinois alone. Further updates will follow.

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