DePuy Verdict Upheld
On Friday, California Judge J. Stephen Czuleger rejected DePuy Orthopedics request for a new trial, maintaining the March jury decision that found that the company’s metal-on-metal implants were defectively designed.
The judge’s decision upholds an $8.3 million award to Loren Kransky, a 65-year-old former prison guard who claimed he suffered serious health problems after an ASR system failed and metal debris spread through his body. Kransky claimed DePuy and its parent company Johnson & Johnson were responsible for injuries caused by the defective, and eventually recalled, A.S.R. hip implant.
Kransky’s was the first complaint to go to trial among the high-profile lawsuits over the implants. Johnson & Johnson announced shortly after the original trial that it would attempt to reverse the decision. The company is facing thousands of lawsuits worldwide over the defective A.S.R. joint, with the outcome of this suit closely watched. and losing this appeal could set a strong precedent for upcoming trials.
In his decision Judge Czuleger denied any attempts to appeal the ruling on the grounds that the plaintiff had failed to provid enough evidence to establish that the products were defective in design.
In the Los Angeles trial, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, DePuy denied that it knew the device was defective. The company maintained that failure of the A.S.R. was entirely the result of surgeons implanting the device improperly.
The A.S.R. represents only a part of the biggest medical device failure in decades. Since its recall in 2010, the Smith & Nephew R3 and the Zimmer Durom Cup have also been recalled. The Stryker Rejuvenate was recalled in 2012 for metal contamination, but in that case the metal was leaching from the modular neck joint. Metal-on-metal joints still on the market such as the Biomet Magnum, the Encore and the Wright Profemur Converse, Dynasty, and Lineage are also failing at unacceptably high rates.
At the original trial in Los Angeles internal company documents were revealed that showed DePuy had long known of problems with the A.S.R. It was aware of abnormally high failure rates with the device yet it continued to market it aggressively in the United States even after company head Andrew Ekdahl was told by consultants that the device was faulty and failing at alarming rates.
The jury rebuked that argument entirely, and by upholding the verdict, Judge Czuleger sends a strong message to DePuy that try as it may to deny responsibility, it will ultimately have to answer to the victims of one of the greatest medical device failures in history.
It should come as no surprise that the first crisis facing Pope Francis involves a sex abuse scandal.
Roberto Octavio González Nieves, the outspoken Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been accused by Vatican emissaries of allegedly protecting pedophile priests.
This past December, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican, asked Archbishop Gonzalez Nieves to leave his post and move elsewhere within the Church. Since then the Vatican has made numerous more requests for the Archbishop to step down, all of which he has refused.
The U.S. territory’s most senior Catholic has said there is no reason for him to resign, despite being asked to do so by the Vatican. “Injustice, persecution, defamation, distortion of the facts and an unfair process cannot be reasons to resign,” he said in a letter to the Cardinal Ouellet in February.
The matter is important because the Vatican has long been criticized by victims of sexually abusive priests for having failed to punish bishops who shielded abusive priests, moving them from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police. If the Vatican is trying to persuade Gonzalez Nieves to resign for having done just that, it would mark a significant development.
There continue to be cases worldwide of pedophile priests being sheltered by the Catholic Church hierarchy. Many of the Cardinals who voted in Pope Francis at the conclave in March have been involved in scandals and accused of cover-ups.
The church continues to insist it will do everything it can to protect children from pedophile priests. But recent scandals in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New Jersey, Boston and Puerto Rico seem to suggest the church is still more concerned with protecting its brand than helping the victims of sexual abuse.
In Puerto Rico alone, Saunders & Walker has filed a number of federal lawsuits against various bishops for allowing and covering up sex abuse of children.
Archbishop González Nieves remains defiant and the Vatican has yet to indicate if it will forcibly remove him if he continues to resist resigning on his own. It is worth noting that the archbishop has sought the council of Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in disgrace as archbishop of Boston in 2002 when the clerical sex abuse scandal exploded in the U.S. Rather than being punished for covering up for the pedophiles on his staff, however, Law was given the plum job as archpriest of one of the Vatican’s major basilicas in Rome.
Perhaps in the wake of being accused of protecting pedophile priests Archbishop González Nieves sees the opportunity for a promotion.
It seems to be the way the Catholic Church works.
Teacher Sex Abuse Molestation
As more accusers came forward, a former yeshiva teacher in Lakewood New Jersey abruptly changed pleas Monday in the middle of his trial, admitting he had sexually abused a boy he met while working as a camp counselor.
Rabbi Yosef Kolko pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and child endangerment. The abuse occurred from August 2008 to February 2009. It ranged from fondling to oral sex and stopped when the boy told his father, who confronted Kolko.
The change in plea came several days after the the prosecutor’s office was contacted by two other victims who also accused Kolko of sexual assault, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Laura Pierro said.
The case may be a watershed for the prosecutor’s office and the Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood, which has in the past been reluctant to bring criminal matters to civil authorities, preferring instead to handle them through rabbinical courts and senior rabbis.
The father of the victim had originally taken the matter to rabbinical court. In the Orthodox community it is considered heretical, if not blasphemous, to take legal matters outside the community. But after a few months, he was unsatisfied with how the case was being handled and that Kolko was still teaching.
It was only after the father found out that Kolko was going to be allowed to teach at a summer sleepover camp that he approached the Lakewood prosecutor’s office.
As a result, the family was ostracized by the Orthodox Jewish community. The Asbury Park Press reported that a flier was circulated within a large Lakewood Orthodox Jewish community, saying the boy’s father had made a mockery of the Torah and committed a “terrible deed” by taking the case to state prosecutors.
Pierro, the prosecutor, claims that the father made a “historic step” in the Orthodox community by taking the accusations to her office but admits that, “there certainly are members of the community who remain outspoken against what the father did on behalf of his son.”
The conviction may be historic in the Orthodox community, but it remains a painful reminder that the scourge of child sex abuse – and the inexcusable failure of adults to do all they can to protect the victims – is not limited to the Catholic Church.
Penn State tolerated Jerry Sandusky raping children because it was more scared of the damage that might be done to the school’s reputation. Orthodox leaders were reluctant to take action against Kolko out of fear of embarrassing the community.
In every case of suspected child abuse, it is imperative that the facts be reported to the authorities and prosecutors be allowed to investigate. The Catholic Church, Penn State, and Orthodox leaders in Lakewood all failed this test. Because of that justice was delayed and more children were put at risk because predators were allowed to remain free.
It is rare that an adult driven to abuse children will stop at one victim. It continues until someone puts a stop to it.
In the end, it is not about religion or football. It is about the sexual abuse of children. That should never be tolerated, under any circumstance.
Sex Abuse Attorney
The Rev. Michael Fugee works with youth groups, attends youth retreats, and hears the confessions of minors.
The Rev. Michael Fugee is a self-confessed pedophile.
It has recently been revealed that Fugee has openly worked with children for the past several years through an unofficial association with a Monmouth County church — St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck, N.J. He did so with the approval of New Jersey’s highest-ranking Catholic official, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers.
In 2001, Fugee confessed to twice fondling the genitals of a 14-year-old boy during wrestling matches. At the time, the priest served as assistant pastor at the Church of St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff.
Two years later, he was convicted by a jury and sentenced to five years’ probation. In 2006, an appellate panel vacated the verdict, ruling that a portion of the confession — in which Fugee described himself as bisexual or homosexual — should have been withheld from jurors because they might have drawn “an unfounded association between homosexuality and pedophilia.” The rest of the confession stood.
To avoid a retrial, Fugee entered a rehabilitation program, underwent counseling for sex offenders and signed a binding agreement that would dictate the remainder of his life as a Roman Catholic priest. The agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office stipulated that would have no affiliation with youth groups, would not attend youth retreats, and was barred from hearing the confessions of minors.
In recent years, Fugee has repeatedly violated that agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office – with the blessing of Archbishop Myers.
It is a pattern that has become all too familiar in the Catholic Church. When a sexual predator is identified within the church, the reaction is to deny or dismiss the charges and quietly transfer the guilty priest. Little, if any, consideration is ever given to the victims. Quite often the pedophile priests are given new assignments and parishioners there are never informed of the priest’s past.
The archdiocese of New Jersey continued to assign Fugee without disclosing his history. He held positions as Chaplain of St. Michael’s Medical Center, as co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests, and lived at Church of the Sacred Heart in Rochelle Park parish. In each instance he was removed only after his past had been revealed to parishioners in the press.
At St. Mary’s, where Fugee has had an unofficial association for several years, he was originally invited to participate by the church’s youth ministers, who were longtime friends. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Thomas Triggs, was aware of Fugee’s past but chose not share that information with other parishioners.
Since his involvement with St. Mary’s was revealed by the press there has been a public outcry. Parishioners of the church are outraged they were never informed of Fugee’s past and victims groups are flabbergasted he was allowed to keep working with children.
The response from the church has been, sadly, predictable. In a feat of verbal gymnastics, Archbishop Myers defended his decision to allow Fugee to continue working in the archdiocese without informing parishioners of his past. In a letter to other priests in the parish this past February, Myers wrote that in his interpretation of the case, “no sexual abuse had occurred,” and that had guided him to allow Fugee to return to the ministry.
In spite of Fugee’s confession to having groped a teenager, in spite of Fugee’s agreement with the Bergen County prosecutors office to never to work with children again, Archbishop Myers chose to allow this pedophile priest to keep working.
What should be noted is that Archbishop Myers helped draft the 2002 Dallas Charter, which required disclosure of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
What also should be noted is that in his February letter, Archbishop Myers never mentioned the two teenage boys whom Rev. Michael Fugee admitted having molested.
The long awaited first jury trial in the DePuy ASR hip implant federal multidistrict litigation was set to begin on June 3, 2013. Judge Katz moved the trial to September 2013. Judge Katz is the federal judge in charge of the vast majority of DePuy ASR cases which are in the federal court system. Lawyers for the injured patients argued for a shorter postponement of only a few weeks but the judge thought that due to the number of unsettled legal issues and the fact that the next open trial date on his calendar was not until September that the trial would be moved to September.
In August it will be three years since the DePuy ASR hip implant recall and DePuy has yet to make any fair offers to settle these cases. I believe that at this point only repeated jury trial will force this company to the table to settle these cases. They cannot try 11,000 lawsuits so they have to institute a settlement program at some point.
So far, there have been two jury trials in the state courts of California and Illinois. The first verdict was in California for 8.3 million dollars and the second jury verdict in Chicago was zero for the plaintiffs.
Saunders and Walker and other law firms around the country are continuing to fight for victims of this greedy company and we hope that justice will prevail sometime soon in the future.