The Irish High Court, in the first decided case concerning a defective ASR hip implant in proceedings entitled Gillian O’Sullivan v DePuy International Limited awarded Ms O’Sullivan a total sum of €300,000 for general damages for pain and suffering and special damages of £482,000.
Ms O’Sullivan’s injuries resulted from the use of the defective ASR Hip Device. She sought damages for negligence, breach of duty, breach of statutory duty and liability for the sale and supply of a defective product to her. Prior to the hearing DePuy admitted that the DePuy hip replacement product was defective so Ms O’Sullivan’s claim proceeded as an assessment of compensatory damages only.
Up to 2002 Ms O’Sullivan stated that she did not have any difficulties with her hips but around that time she developed increasing problem due to arthritis and she was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. Her stiffness continued and worsened and so her left hip was not replaced until 19th October 2005 and the right hip was replaced in May 2006.
The metal-on-metal DePuy product known as ASR and ASR XL promised greater flexibility and greater durability. It contained chromium and cobalt and was characterised by two essential features, a shallower cup and a smaller clearance between the cup and the ball.
In May 2012 Ms O’Sullivan underwent a revision surgery of her left hip. The DePuy hip inserted in 2005 was removed and a new hip was installed. Ms O’Sullivan ultimately went on to have a revision of her right hip in February 2013.
In making the total award of €704,209.60 the Judge ordered damages as follows-
|• Special damages to date and into the future||€482,455.11|
|• General damages to date||€200,000|
|• General damages for pain and suffering into the future||€100,000|
There was a significant award of special damages in the case which would not be usual in hip cases. A sum of €51,040.11 was awarded for past care and travel expenses, €191,415 for future revision and care costs and €240,000 for future home care/aids and appliances. The case is very informative but should not be taken as the appropriate level of damages that would likely be awarded by other High Court Judges for people who have pursued claims seeking damages for hip injuries. This was a unique case where Ms O’Sullivan had already had four operations and was likely to undergo a further three or more in the future.
It is likely that this case will be appealed to the Court of Appeal, as the award for special damages was very high and undoubtedly the Defendants will argue that these sums are excessive.