J&J’s $1bn hip settlement is a drop in the ocean

The $1bn Johnson & Johnson is reported to have paid to settle lawsuits around its defective Pinnacle range of hip implants is a hefty amount of money – but it is dwarfed by the $2.9bn in cash it paid in 2013 to settle claims from plaintiffs harmed by its ASR hips. Perhaps this is why shareholders barely reacted, sending the shares down just 1.5%. Yesterday’s settlement put about 95% of the 6,000 or so Pinnacle claims to bed, but the remainder will take more time and money. And J&J has other legal wrangles to think about. Most of the US cases of the company's pelvic mesh implant litigation have been resolved, but class actions have begun in several other countries. It is also on the hook for $4.7bn as a result of its baby powder being linked with ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Billion-dollar fines might be viewed as a cost of doing business for these hugely profitable, multinational healthcare companies, but surely only up to a point. The bills are adding up for J&J, and while executives have expressed confidence in overturning the baby powder verdicts, losing could cause a more dramatic shareholder reaction.

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