DePuy Makes Argument on Laws Governing Punitive Damages

DePuy Orthopaedics is facing more than 11,500 lawsuits in the United States and many more cases abroad. Evidence indicates the company is worried about the potential outcome of all of these cases, as our Boston hip implant lawyers recently reported DePuy’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, is considering a settlement of more than $3 billion to resolve DePuy cases. This would be the highest settlement paid to-date to resolve claims arising out of defective hip implants. u-s--supreme-court-hallway-658238-m.jpg

Amid concerns about the potential liability the company faces, Harris Martin recently reported that DePuy Orthopaedics has asked the court to rule that home-state law should apply on punitive damages for the upcoming ASR multi-district litigation. If the court agrees to this, then the rights of individual plaintiffs to recover punitive damages could potentially be more limited than might otherwise be the case.

Understand the DePuy Request

When a lawsuit is filed against a company like DePuy, there is a chance that a jury will award punitive damages to a plaintiff, in addition to economic and compensatory damages. While economic damages are designed to compensate victims for losses and include payment of things like medical bills, lost income and compensatory damages, include payment for pain and suffering, punitive damages serve a different purpose. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for wrongdoing and to deter future bad behavior.

Punitive damages are paid to the plaintiff, even though they are meant to punish the defendant, and they can significantly increase the amount of money that a plaintiff receives in a lawsuit. This, of course, is bad news for a defendant who doesn’t want to have to pay additional money on top of compensating a victim for his actual losses.

The rules for punitive damages are not the same across the United States, as every individual state has the right to establish its own limits on punitive damages for in-state personal injury lawsuits. Different countries also have different rules regarding when, or if, punitive damages are allowed.

Because there are different laws that can apply in different states, when cases are handled in federal court or when the defendant and plaintiff are from different locations, the court has to decide what law is going to apply. In legal terms, this is called a choice of law question. It is an important question because, depending upon which state or country’s law is applied, the plaintiff may be able to recover more or less money.

A lot of complicated arguments can be made regarding which law should apply in each case and there is a whole body of technical legal rules that govern this decision. In the DePuy cases, however, DePuy is asking the court to apply home-state law. This would mean that the court would apply the law where the company is located (Indiana and the United Kingdom).

DePuy made a motion requesting that the court apply home state law and, in its motion, was quoted as saying: “this analysis [of which law should apply] should not take into account which punitive damages regime is potentially more generous to the plaintiff.” It seems clear, however, the company wouldn’t have asked for the home state’s law to apply if it didn’t benefit DePuy. Plaintiffs will need to watch closely to see how the court rules on this and can speak with an attorney to understand how the decision might affect their potential compensation.

If you or a loved one was injured by a defective hip implant, call Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers for a free and confidential appointment — (617) 777-7777.

More Blog Entries:

DePuy and Other Metal-on-Metal Manufacturers Face Problems Globally, Boston Personal Injury Attorney Blog, July 20, 2013.

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