LOS ANGELES (AP) - Opening statements were scheduled Friday in a lawsuit that claims medical giant Johnson & Johnson knowingly marketed a faulty hip implant that left thousands of people with crippling problems or needing replacement surgeries.
The fraud and negligence suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, is 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.
Loren Kransky, a former North Dakota prison guard, claims he suffered metal poisoning and other health problems after receiving the hip joint, known as the articular surface replacement, or ASR, in 2007.
He since has had it replaced.
Attorneys for the company argue that Kransky, 64, had a number of previous medical problems, that he knew the risks of hip replacement surgery and that there is no evidence that the ASR had a fault design.
The artificial hip socket was made by Johnson & Johnson's subsidiary, DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. It was sold for eight years to some 35,000 people in the U.S. and more than 90,000 people worldwide. The company stopped making the product in 2009 and recalled it the next year.
However, documents unsealed in the court case last week indicated that Johnson & Johnson officials were aware of problems with the device at least as far back as 2008.
Also, according to a deposition from a DePuy official, a 2011 company review of a patient registry concluded that more than a third of the implants were expected to fail within five years of their implantation.
New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson has put aside around $1 billion to deal with the costs of the recall and lawsuits.
Last year, British experts at the world's biggest artificial joint registry said doctors should stop using metal-on-metal hip replacements after a study found that, after five years, about 6 percent of people who had used them needed surgery to fix or replace them.
That compares with just 1.7 to 2.3 percent of people who had ceramic or plastic joints.
Johnson & Johnson has issued about 30 recalls of Tylenol and other products since September 2009. Reasons range from nauseating packaging smells to tiny glass and metal shards in liquid medicines.
On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson reported higher fourth-quarter profits and forecast a 2013 profit of $5.35 to $5.45 per share. That was below the average analyst estimate of $5.49.
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