A jury in Georgia has ordered medical device manufacturer Wright Medical to pay $11 million in the first federal trial concerning the Conserve hip implant. Of that sizable award, $1 million was in compensatory damages, intended to compensate plaintiff for losses, and $10 million was in punitive damages, intended to punish defendant.
Jurors concluded not only was the hip implant defective and unreasonably dangerous, but that manufacturer misrepresented the safety of those products. For this, jurors determined defendant was 100 percent at fault for plaintiff’s injuries.
Plaintiff, who spent nearly 50 years as a children’s ski instructor and led a very active lifestyle, was advised by doctors to undergo a hip replacement in 2006. Her doctor, based on what he’d been told by manufacturer, told her the metal-on-metal hip replacement model was her best bet. But as we have discovered with so many hip replacement devices, this one failed prematurely.
She was the first of some 2,000 plaintiffs whose cases are pending against the company in the case of In RE: Wright Medical Technology, Inc., Conserve Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, before the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia. Several other manufacturers, including DePuy, Stryker, Zimmer and Biomet, have faced similar litigation. In fact DePuy, owned by Johnson & Johnson, was ordered to pay $2.5 billion to settle 7,500 lawsuits asserting the company knew up to 40 percent of its implants would fail within five years. Another 4,500 cases were still pending.
These implants are advertised to last between 15 and 20 years. However, just six years after implantation, this plaintiff began to suffer severe pain in her hip and could barely walk. Her doctor, suspecting the implant had somehow loosened, decided corrective surgery was the only way to address the issue. But when the doctor actually conducted the surgery, he found the situation was actually far worse: The soft tissue that surrounded the implant was damaged by corroded metal debris.
The end result is that all the things this 71-year-old active senior once loved to do – hiking, water-skiing, jogging and snow-skiing – are no longer an option for her.
An increasing number of people are undergoing hip replacement surgeries, and a larger percentage are finding these devices aren’t performing as promised. Little if any clinical testing is conducted on new models via a U.S. Food & Drug Administration loophole, and these products are rushed to market before it’s clear they are safe. Some of the problems patients have reported:
- Loosening of components
- Severe pain
- Breakdown of components
- Metal poisoning
This plaintiff, who suffered from metallosis, responded by filing a product liability lawsuit alleging strict liability for design defect, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and negligent misrepresentation.
Defendant sought summary judgment prior to the close of trial, arguing plaintiff had failed to bring forth enough evidence. Judge denied this request and the case went to a jury, which sided with plaintiff. Defendant has vowed appeal.
Bellwether cases like this are good indicators of how future litigation may play out, as many cases will involve the same basic elements and accusations. That’s why plaintiff lawyers say they chose this case – one they described as “middle-of-the-road” in terms of strength of favorable evidence – to help serve as a guidepost. This outcome means future cases may be more likely to settle before reaching the trial phase.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
In RE: Wright Medical Technology, Inc., Conserve Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, Nov. 25, 2015, U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia
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