LOS ANGELES — A lawsuit brought by a man whose hip implant caused metal poisoning accuses medical giant Johnson & Johnson of knowingly marketing the faulty implant that lawyers say left thousands of people with crippling problems or in need of replacement surgeries.
A California jury heard opening statements on Friday in the fraud and negligence suit – the first of thousands of similar suits to reach trial in the United States that involve an all-metal ball-and-socket hip joint that was pulled from the market two years ago.
A lawyer for plaintiff Loren Kransky showed jurors pictures from a surgery in which black material could be seen in the patient's hip socket. Attorney Michael Kelly said the material was from pieces of metal that had flaked off of the implant.
Kelly also played a segment of a doctor's audio deposition in which he said he feared that if the material wasn't removed, Kransky would have died. The pieces of metal were causing a form of metal poisoning, he said.
Kransky, a former North Dakota prison guard, sought hip replacement to relieve arthritic pain. He received the implant in 2007 and has since had it replaced. He listened to opening statements Friday from a front-row seat.
A lawyer for Johnson & Johnson's subsidiary, DePuy Orthopedics Inc., which manufactured the metal implant, said Friday that the 64-year-old Kransky had many pre-existing medical ailments. Attorney Alexander Calfo presented a list of 16 major diseases, including kidney cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and vascular disease as well as exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Mr. Kransky did not get worse because of the (implant) and did not get better when it was removed, he said.
He added: Hip surgery is not perfect. No material to this very day has proven to be perfect.
Calfo said the metal implant had been designed to improve on plastic and ceramic implants.
The artificial hip socket was sold for eight years to some 35,000 people in the United States and more than 90,000 people worldwide. New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson stopped making the product in 2009 and recalled it the next year.